The Greatest Creative Challenge

Saturday, we made a short-notice pilgrimage to Oakland, our destination the Eames exhibit at the Oakland Museum of Art. While full of chairs, plywood and period-specific photography, the exhibit held hermetically how Charles and Ray collaborated except to say they built an entire studio in which to work.

In addition to great food and beer at Drake’s Dealership (pizza) and Lost & Found (plaintains), we also intentionally sought out The Long Weekend shop. Curated, and I do mean curated, by Courtney Cerruti, artist, traveler and teacher at Creative Bug (online) in San Francisco, the one-room store was filled with unique delights. Sennelier watercolor sets for travel, inks made from plants, a mending book nook and an old-fashioned library cart were a few of the highlights.

In the back, a very small gallery held 100 micro-paintings that evoked a unique sense of place traveled to. It turns out that Courtney has a things for explorers and their carnet de voyage. I resonated because I was raised on a farm with Lewis & Clark, Daniel Boone and Davy Crocket as well as Star Trek and Gilligan’s Island as my exploring adventure heroes. I explored and mapped my environs, creeks, pasture and road, my conquests moths, butterflies and plants.

In the Long Weekend store I found Explorer’s Sketchbooks: The Art of Discover and Adventure. Novelist Wade Davis wrote the introduction to the chapter entitled Making Your Mark. Davis’ brief two-page essay touched me while in the midst of the creative challenge to architect my life to yield a state of illumination that is being alive as a vocation. Here are a few of the quotes that I thought you might also enjoy.

Travel

“I would later come to understand travel not as scientific inquiry, but rather as pilgrimage, with each step taking one closer to the goal, which was not a place but a state of mind, not a destination but a path of illumination and liberation that is the ultimate quest of the pilgrim.”

Wade Davis, “Making Your Mark”, Explorers’ Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery and Adventure, Huy Lewis-Jones and Kari Herbert, 2016.

Life and Work

“Life is neither linear nor predictable. A career is not something that you put on like a coat. It is something that grows organically around you, step-by-step, choice-by-choice, and experience-by-experience. Everything adds up.”

Wade Davis, “Making Your Mark”, Explorers’ Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery and Adventure, Huy Lewis-Jones and Kari Herbert, 2016.

“The work you do is just a lens through which to view and experience the world, and only for a time. The goal is to make living itself, the act of being alive, one’s vocation, knowing full well that nothing ultimately can be planned or anticipated, no blueprint found to predict the outcome of something as complex as a human life.”

Wade Davis, “Making Your Mark”, Explorers’ Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery and Adventure, Huy Lewis-Jones and Kari Herbert, 2016.

The Greatest Creative Challenge

“The greatest creative challenge is the struggle to be the architect of your own life.”

Wade Davis, “Making Your Mark”, Explorers’ Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery and Adventure, Huy Lewis-Jones and Kari Herbert, 2016.

I am encouraged to re-cast my journals from journal to carnet de voyage, a part of the process of architecting my own life. This re-imagining or vujade trying as hard as possible as if I’d never seen a journal imbues them with tremendous value because they lend insights to the milestones and in between of the journey. I am excited to see what difference this makes.

On Becoming a Sewist

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Photo by Annie Spratt / Found on Unsplash

Learn Always

If you had told me in college that I would not only drink beer but also brew it, I would have not believed you. The same with sewing. If you had told me that I would not only learn to sew with a machine but also want to design my own fabric and make my own fabric art projects, your lips would be movin’ but I would say you lie lie lie. Yet, here I am. 

How did this happen?

Instead of rushing to the now, like a fait accompli, I’ll take a moment to go back to the beginning, just this year, 2018, to figure out how on earth this happened.

Goal and Guides

Looking back at my Google calendar, it started in February with a sewing class at the Klum House. I didn’t want to learn to sew. I wanted to learn to make a purse because I have the ridiculous belief that if you can just find the right purse (or murse for men), you can handle anything that comes at you. 

I had a goal. Sewing was an unfortunate necessity. Ellie, the instructor, was a fantastic guide. With the patient and gracious aid of teaching assistants who threaded my machine and helped me get unstuck at various times, I and several others made a bag. 

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I carried the resulting bag in the following months and indeed, its design helped me have the right thing at the right time while staying up on my shoulder. In September, I followed up with a Learn to Sew Like a Boss workshop at the Klum House so I could learn how to actually operate a sewing machine on my own because I wanted to make more things.

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Machine Matters

At my husband’s encouragement, I pulled my mother-in-law’s portable Singer sewing machine out of storage in September. Some feature research helped me peg it as a 1951 Featherweight.

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It hadn’t been used in quite some time so in October I got it cleaned and oiled. The repairman said it was in good shape and would sew quite well.  Thankfully, the manual was with the machine and I spent some time reading it. 

While I was initially underwhelmed with the machine, everywhere I go, people ooh and ahh over my Singer like it was the cutest newborn they’d ever seen. Followed by, “Does it back stitch?” Yes, it does. Then, “Does it zig zag stitch?” No, it does not. Sometimes, “Does it have a buttonholer?” Absolutely not. And yet, I sew on. 

Materials

In early November, I happened upon a fabric selection event at creative reuse center Fabmo. Designer fabric is yours for a donation. Primed by friends’ mentions of this place, I stopped by during the limited hours available to the public without appointment. I browsed and found a few things that I responded to.

Fabric-Finds

Utility

By mid-November, I had made my first zippered bag and been given my first thread catcher. Bron at Fabmo explained to me that having a thread catcher was a bit like good sewing hygiene. I was thrilled. 

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Platform / Community

Some public platforms and the people who make them happen helped me continue on my journey.

  • The Sunnyvale Library hosts a Sewing Lab once a week. Two accomplished sewists answer specific questions on your project and you can sew in the company of others.
  • Fabmo, a creative reuse non-profit hosts Sew-Mo, a monthly sewing lab at Fabmo where fun sewists also help you with your project. I am a grateful beneficiary of guidance from and fun with Bron, Hannah, and Sara to name a few.

Friends

My friends have provided encouragement that helps me continue my creative explorations: Amy, Doro, Cindy, Kristin, Laura, Pam you know who you are:)

In another post, I’ll share some of the things I’ve sewn.


Selling on Ebay vs Facebook Marketplace

IMG_2586A former colleague of mine recently encouraged me to apply for a role at eBay. She’s very happy there and has a highly attenuated sense of cultural fit so I trust her judgement. I decided to experiment with selling on Ebay as a way of exploring the company.

While I used to buy and sell camera equipment on Ebay it had been awhile. To get reacquainted I listed a purse on Ebay and a bag on Facebook Marketplace (FBM) to also understand one of the competitors.

Here are a few things that I learned from these experiments first from the buyer’s point of view and then from the seller’s.

BUYERS

Standard of Comparison: Ebay vs Amazon

First time eBay buyers aren’t comparing today’s eBay experience with prior experience on the platform. Buyers today will more likely compare the eBay buying experience to Amazon’s. The buying process may hold surprises for them. For example, there’s no “pick up site”. Buyers have to have packages delivered to their front door step. Also, unless the seller chooses to offer free and expedited shipping there’s no free 2-day shipping like you get with Prime.

SELLERS

Listing is super easy with a smart phone. Just take pictures, write a keyword rich title and description, select the shipping service you want to offer, set your price and you’re off! eBay has a step-by-step guide.

The guide is text only. The lack of video quite surprised me. A helpful concierge persona or person in conjunction with text would have made the learning experience much more fun. Maybe eBay chose text only because of the difficulty of choosing a person(a) that all users would identify with and because video content is more difficult to update.

eBay’s platform is available via a browser and a mobile app. While I experienced some messaging sync issues between the two platforms, overall I found them easy to use. It was definitely nice to get mobile notifications and be able to respond quickly.

Pictures: Take lots. Select intentionally.

In each platform you can use nine or more photos to help set the buyer’s expectation about the condition of the item, particularly if pre-owned. I took 15 photos and used seven showing wide view, medium view of individual features and close-ups of areas of wear and indicators of brand authenticity. While pictures are worth a thousand words, a 90 second video overview could really help.

Item Description: eBay autofill / FBM manual

eBay will autopopulate detailed specs for your item based on previously sold similar items. This saves you time and increases accuracy through crowdsourcing. You can update any of the details you wish. FBM does not offer this feature.

Pricing: eBay pricing recommendation engine/ FBM current listing comparisons

eBay will show you what similar items sold for and will give you a recommended selling price. On eBay you can select different pricing models.

  • An auction means the item will go to the highest bidder. You can specify the number of days the auction is going to be open up to seven days.
  • A “buy-it-now” price model is used in conjunction with an auction model. The price is usually higher than the starting price for the auction. If a buyer wants to pay this higher price, the auction will end.
  • And there are fixed price listings where the price is the price. Negotiation happens within the Ebay platform via messages.

FBM has no history review or recommendation engine although you can look at the prices of other similar items currently for sale. FBM has fixed price listings and easy communication for negotiation via Messenger.

Fees: Ebay/Paypal 13% / FBM 0%

eBay charges an insertion fee to “insert”  or list the item in a category like “bags and purses” and a final value fee. The final value fee is 10% * (sale price + shipping) up to $50. If you get a track record of “item not as described” you pay an extra 4% in final value fees added on top. For my experiment, the insertion fee was free and the final value fee was $4.33. (*Your first 50 listings as a personal seller are free of insertion fees.)

Also, Paypal charges 3% fees on the transaction or 3% * (sale price + shipping). For my experiment, Paypal fees were ~$1.29

Bottom line, you’re looking at 13% of (the selling price + the shipping cost) in fees.

FBM charges no fees. However, exchanging payment for the item with the buyer may require meeting in person.

Shipping: eBay partners with USPS and FedEx

If you chose USPS as your shipper of choice for a listing you get

  • a discount from regular USPS rates
  • automatically calculated shipping cost
  • a shipping label to print at home
  • the tracking number is automatically populated and hyperlinked in your view making it easy for you and the buyer to trace progress.

Competitive Landscape: Lots of options with different service levels. Also lots of overlap in the products available on competing platforms.

Local: While FBM, Craigslist and the traditional garage sale compete for the local market, eBay also has a listings filter for “local pickup only”.

Used/New: eBay, Amazon, FBM and Craigslist list offer a marketplace for used and new items.

Specialized: There are specialized marketplaces for used and new designer label clothes like Thred UpThe RealReal and Rebagg and for electronics like  GlydeSwappa, Gazelle,  uSell and Decluttr. I have not tried any of these.

Wrestling In Between

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Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2018

I just finished this drawing today. The figure on the left mounted in some sort of carriage came first and easily. From there I created additional sections and kept them related to one another. The whole thing took about 12-15 hours over two months.

It occurred to me that film is a color and in the case of black and white film that color is mostly black. So I have black from Sumi ink, from Micron ink, from other pens and from film. I used Jelly Roll white to draw on the film and invert the black on white application used in the rest of the drawing.

A repeat of strong parallel lines undergirds the whole and provides a sense of background and depth.The reds counteracts that depth, bringing what is red forward even when it is receding, wrestling with and flattening the planes of space. Also, the reds throughout and repeated patterns unify the contrasts of which there are many: black and white, curved and straight, patterned and organic, human or animal, order and chaos.

This sense of straddling the boundaries between distinctions, of depth and flatness, of human and pattern, fluid and static is a push and pull, a deft hold. It reminds me of Dr. Dolittle’s pushmi-pullyu, a gazelle/unicorn cross with one head at each end of its body.

This in between state is a doorway, a liminal space. Liminal spaces are the time and space hallways in between the no longer and the not yet. As an example, the Israelites were in between no longer being slaves in Egypt and not yet being conquerors of Canaan for 40 years.

It is this very middle ground that I am navigating. In April, after eleven years working for the same company, my role was moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to North Carolina. That path was not the trajectory for my life and I found myself with the amazing gift of the time and necessity to explore the space in between the no longer and the not yet.

In our own Egypts, the message marking the juncture is usually fairly clear. Someone or something is no longer there. If we define ourselves by the thing that has come to an end, we have a gap, a hole to fill, a new part of our selves to construct. Every one of these destructions is an opportunity to turn to the One who made us and to chose a new foundation.

But the hard work of in between is uncomfortable for most of us. We want to be here or there but not in between. The most common refrain is, “Are we there yet?” Disappointment mounts when expectations about the speed of travel to the destination isn’t as fast as our expectations.

Donald Judd wrote,”The idea of a rectangle exists only as an idea, which is easy for rectangles and difficult for most ideas.”*

We need to hold on to and cherish the idea of the in between space in part because it means there was an end and we believe there will be a beginning. And because in that space we can do some work on our self definition and foundations that isn’t conducive to the condition of having arrived.

That in between space is where we can fight for a blessing like Jacob fought the angel of the Lord for a blessing. He received a blessing, and a limp. What would it be like not to have your value defined by your role/income/spouse/education/children/location? That’s worth fighting for. Even if it gives you a limp for a lifetime.

*Some Aspects of Color in General and Red and Black in Particular, Donald Judd, Mohawk Maker Quarterly, Issue 14, Lead and Serve p 84, reprinted from Artforum, Summer 1994, 70-78, 110-113.)

Book #20: Mini-Accordion Photo Book

It arrived! My 20th book in mini accordion format manufactured by Mpix. Here are some baby pics:

Thanks go to Steve Ballinger for sharing his mini accordion book and manufacturer with the Lyceum Portland photography salon last month. I was intrigued!

If you like the book format, here are a few more posts you may find useful:

It’s All About the Book

I love making photo books. I have hand-made two books of alternative process photography that have appeared in juried shows and one chapbook of poems and self-published 11 books and one magazine. My work has been included by publishers of three books and one magazine. And I have my first accordion file book on the way.

That’s a grand total of 20 books or magazines. I am clearly crazy about photo books.

Five of those books have been made from images I took while traveling. Photo books are a perfect format for travel photos because consuming the book form mirrors the travel experience.

Event

Looking at a photo book is an event with a time and date certain just like your trip.

Physical

Turning the pages of a photo book is a very physical experience because to look at it you must hold it in your hands and turn the page with your fingers. Likewise, your trip was very physical because your body had to go somewhere. There is no virtual travel.

Intimate

Looking at a photo book is intimate. Unlike looking at a photo on the wall, you hold a book within your personal space. What you remember and record from your trip is very personal too. No two sets of travel photos are exactly alike. Your point of view shows up in every frame.

Pace

You control the pace as the reader. For the most part, you control the pace of your travels, what you do on which day and in what order.

Connection

There’s a continued relationship with the content that makes friends. When friends talk about an upcoming or former trip to say Greece, you can share your book, as a way to share the experience.

Multiples

Unlike painting as a medium, where there is one, photography naturally enables multiple copies of the same image. So does the book.

Travel photos in a book are not a bound portfolio. The selection of photos is different because the purpose of the book is different. We chose photos that would not go in the portfolio because a photo book is story driven. We chose photos to support a narrative, maybe about the place you visited, and maybe not. Maybe the story is much more about who you are and what you notice than it is about where you went.

If you like making photo books, here are some other posts that will interest you:

Making Peace

Some interesting things have been going on in my life lately and how I feel about them has been a struggle. I decided to start drawing again. I didn’t intend to work through things through drawing but it became obvious that I am. In each drawing I’m creating and reconciling differences. There’s enough tension to create interest and there’s enough harmony to create some sort of visual balance. While I started in a place that’s pretty on the nose, in each drawing what I was working on evolved. I’d like to share that with you.

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Cluster by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2018

In the first drawing above, I used only one shape, a triangle, and did everything else to create differentness. I varied the color, size, pattern, orientation and context of each triangle. In the next piece (below), I moved toward a landscape with a wall disrupting it. None of this was conscious at the time. I followed the question of what happens if I do this? and this? and this?

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Tension by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2018

Throughout the work I actively engaged the question, “How can I make each piece work together as a whole and keep each piece vibrant?”

Tidy_Panorama1_Edited for blog
Tidy by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2018

Inked shapes lend a physicality to just glimpsed internal questions about the contrasting edges in life.

Flowy Zen Combined Flat for blog
Flowy by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2018

By the fifth drawing, I used haphazard shapes contrasted with pattern to create characters and a sense of a world environment.

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Storyworld by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2018

While working on this series, I stumbled upon this verse: “A man’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?” Proverbs 20:24 While I’m trying to work out how on my own, and control of one’s path is such a value in our culture, God is saying, that’s not the story of your life. Have faith, trust me. I will arrange the pieces of your life into a beautiful whole.

Original work: Sumi ink and Micron pen on 11″ x 14″ Strathmore Bristol paper.

Shop the collection on RedBubble.

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In case you’re curious about how this work relates to other similar work, pattern drawing is not new. It has a long history. Just think of Chinese dish patterns and Muslim geometric patterns on architecture. Fast forward through centuries and more recent developments include Neopoprealism and Zentangles.

Russian-born artist Nadia Russ coined Neo-Pop Realism in 2003 for the patterns she started drawing in 1989. Russ’s method requires that the pattern drawings be done from a subconscious state of mind.

Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas trademarked a similar method of pattern drawing as Zentangle in 2003. Zentangles are limited to certain patterns drawn on 3.5” rectangles in order to enter a meditative state. I took a Zentangle class a few years ago and have kept coming back to the practice. My most ambitious project to date is a 4’ x 6’ canvas of zentangles drawn with a Sharpie. This series also deviates from the rules of both movements in size, method and source of patterns.

Modern day illustrator Stefan Bucher pioneered the method that I used of creating organic shapes from Sumi ink on a toothbrush and compressed air in his series Daily Monster.