October 31, 2010

October 31, 2010 TAFA Team Open Discussion for Fiber and Textile Artists

Our weekly TAFA team thread for Oct 31 on Etsy is now open. Click here to share your activities, opinions, treasuries, blogs posts etc.

In case you are wondering, this is a thread I, as Etsy liaison,  start every week for our TAFA team on Etsy Team and Events Forum. The purpose of this thread is to provide visibility to TAFA Etsy team and its members. It is also an excellent tool to be visible to any potential buyers of fabric and textile products. Lots of Etsy buyers lurk around the forum reading threads, clicking on treasuries and many a buying decisions are made based on what they read and hear around the forums.

You may post anything that is related to your art, shop, tips, techniques or anything else that the members might be interested in. This is your thread.

Posted by Indira of Dharmakarmaarts

October 30, 2010

Puppy Love

 "Dog Pick-up Lines," Susan M. Hinckley

The other day my husband and I stumbled upon a pet rescue group holding adoptions.  There were stacks of crates, each containing a dog with a brief description of how they came to end up as they were:  cramped in a cage, looking quite forlorn and hoping for some attention from a potential best friend.

There were two dogs in particular that tugged at our heart strings, and we found ourselves talking about them on and off over the course of the next few days.  But we had to keep reminding ourselves of all the reasons we couldn't bring one home.  The biggest reason being this:


He's 85 pounds of chocolate-laborador-fun, and he's a whole lot of pet.  And as much as we would have loved to be the answer for one of those sad little faces in the crates, he's all we can handle right now.

My pets have always found their way into my work as well as into my heart.

"Don't Be Fooled," Susan M. Hinckley

Anything that I love naturally seems to flow right out through my fingertips.  And no matter how aggravating, drooly, expensive, or hard on the carpets, it's just about impossible not to love Cooper.  

He positively demands it . . .

Susan M. Hinckley

October 27, 2010

Choosing Backgrounds for Your Etsy Photos

Tribal Jewelry from Central Asia on Afghan Tribal Arts

Great photos are key to successful online sales.  And, that is one of the things that makes shopping on Etsy fun.  The majority of the sellers there take this challenge seriously and really work at displaying their goods beautifully.  Many other competing online markets fail dismally at this as products are displayed with boring, dull, dark, blurry and downright awful photos.  There have even been jokes about photos on eBay where embarrassing reflections are caught by the camera and not noticed by the seller.  The one that sticks in my mind is of a shiny, silver teapot reflecting the image of a fat white man with no shirt on looking through a camera.  Bleah!

Of course there are awful photos on Etsy, too.  Learning how to use lighting well and then edit photos is a time consuming process.  Indira of dharmakarmaarts, one of our TAFA Team members, mentioned that she shoots dozens of shots for every item that she lists in her shop.  Etsy only allows us to show five.  I don't have Indira's patience, so I try for five to seven per item and go with the best.  Over the years, I've photographed thousands of products.  You would think that by now I would be an expert.  I think I am about average.  Good, but not exceptional.  My goal is to give clear images of the product so that the potential buyer can see and "feel" what they are looking at.  Sometimes I think photos on Etsy can go too far to the creative side, so that the product is actually diminished by the photo effects.

In the last couple of days, I have been working on getting photos ready for new listings on one of the shops I manage on Etsy, Afghan Tribal Arts.  My friend, Abdul, imports from Afghanistan and we have textiles, beads and jewelry on his Etsy shop.  I had started working on these photos a couple of months ago and then got sidetracked by other things.  I normally shoot outside on overcast days and when I was setting up yesterday, my eye caught a rusty iron table that I have in my yard.  I normally have plants on it.  The surface has aged into some pretty cool looking textures, so I thought I would try re-shooting some things on it.  Here is an example:



The same pendant looks completely different on the white and rust background.  The metals pick up reflections of the surface it is on.  What do you think?  Which do you like better?  I love the rusty texture, but wonder if it makes the overall image too dark, especially when it is a small thumbnail.  Here are some other examples:

I was also playing with placing the objects a bit off center...

I often get rid of the background completely which is more time consuming.  Here is a textile that I will list later today:

 Turkman Child's Ceremonial Vest

I think a white background is especially important for pieces that already have a lot of pattern or texture in them.  But, one could as easily choose a solid color instead of white as the background.  Part of the challenge is to try to create a signature with the photos so that when they show up in image searches, people start recognizing immediately what belongs to your shop.  I hesitate to do that because it might brand an object, limiting it to a certain type of decor or group of people.  This is always a challenge when photographing clothing.  Some shoppers prefer to see clothing on someone while others prefer a mannequin or hanger.

If you are a shopper, what turns you on or off to a photo?  What kinds of backgrounds do you prefer?

If you are a seller, what have you experimented with and what are your insights?

October 26, 2010

Art Hash, A Great Resource for Artists

Fabric Photo Box by Fairytale Incorporated

One of our TAFA Team members, Lesa Werme of Fairtytale Incorporated, was recently interviewed on Art Hash, an online resource for artists which uses a blog format.  She announced it and I took a look.  "Hmmm....", me thinks to me self....  "I want to be on there, too."

It turns out that it's a pretty easy process.  The only thing that they ask for is that you follow the blog and spread the word, a fair exchange in my book.  Once you follow them, you send an email asking for the questions they use, they send it to you, you fill it out and return it and then they post it.  And, spreading the word about Art Hash is a pleasure as it really does have a lot to offer to artists and I hope it keeps growing.  Aside from the interviews, they list "Calls to Artists" by state and have other posts with info for artists.  So, if you want some publicity, go knock on their door and let them know you would like to be interviewed, too.  And, if you are a TAFA member, don't forget to plug us!

October 25, 2010


Sometimes it's fun to note how your work progresses.  Small refinements are made, new techniques are learned and utilized, mistakes are noted and grown from.  I was noticing this the other day as I considered one of my recurring images.  I call her "Flower Pot Head Lady," and she's been a staple in my studio for several years now.

From my initial sketch of the idea:

grew this, my very first wool piece:

"Fertile Ground", 2004,  Susan M. Hinckley

Over the years, the drawing has been refined:

And so have the embroidered pieces:

"Cultivating", 2005, Susan M. Hinckley

"Grow", 2007, Susan M. Hinckley

"Grow," 2009, Susan M. Hinckley

But then, I guess that's always been her message:  GROW.

I'll be interested to see how she grows next . . .

Susan M. Hinckley

Small Works in Wool

October 22, 2010

A room of my own, rituals and guardian angels

"A room of my own", Gilgulim's studio.

Before I unfold the secrets of my little home studio and invite you for a visit, I want to discuss another matter. I wish to share with you the need for ceremonies before we actually start working. I am quite sure that each one of us has his/her rituals that prepare us for the actual creative work. Take me for example: I cannot start working if the house is not more or less tidy and clean (do not mistake me for a cleanliness maniac, I am not!). Too much upside down makes me nervous and does not give me the peace of mind that I need. 

The same is true for my studio. If you look at my studio, you might not find it VERY tidy but it is MY order. I have to have all the materials and utensils within arms' reach and the white sheet of cloth I work on, needs to be clean from beads and left over fibers stuck on from the day before. And, I need quiet. The best time for me is when nobody is home or everybody is asleep.

Fabric straps ready do be used.
I have a tiny little studio into which I piled hundreds of neckties, a little white 1950's cupboard we found in the street and made into a lovely piece of furniture.  It is filled with textiles in all colors and shades, buttons, strings, beads and more. Opposite my desk, I have shelves containing little jars with beads divided by color, my jewelry utensils, materials that suit the season or my inspiration of the moment and three boxes of glass beads. On the big desk there are beads ready, waiting for their turn to be matched with other beads and the straps of materials I have already cut, and the actual product I am working on.
My IN THE SQUARE, STREET FASHION, FEATHER LYRICS, MATISSE and READY MADE collections of jewelry are stored in different drawers.  Sure, my laptop has a very important position on my right.  Do not forget the ironing board, ready to be used at all times.
Most important of all are my muses, my guardian angels: a little Indian marble Buddha head (mistaken for a grenade when I crossed the border from Jordan to Israel) and MAGALI OHIKA PEREZ's beautiful collage…. That was offered to me by her and is watching me while I am working (Magali's ETSY shop and her blog are worth your while visiting) .
The truth is that this conglomerate of materials and furniture does not leave much space to move around, but I feel great in this little room of my own.
What are you talking about?  Order in this tiny over stuffed little studio, Hagar?
Do not forget!  It is MY order that I am speaking about!
Do you have rituals too? Share them with us!

Fiber flakes I use for my Feather Lyrics earring collection.

October 21, 2010

Work Spaces . . . Susan M. Hinckley's Studio

You can probably tell a lot about a person by the kind of environment they work best in.  When I recently moved to a new studio space, I was so excited by the possibilities!  I took photos after I got things set up.

And I was delighted to have a large and lovely new desk,

new shelves with matchy-matchy storage boxes,

And a place for everything.

But the "everything in its place" is where I've started to run into trouble.  I can't find anything.  I know where it used to be sitting --  on the floor or perched precariously atop a pile on my old, woefully small desk. But having it all put away just bewilders me.  I should have made some kind of key that told me where everything ended up.

And that enormous clean desk?!  Perfectly intimidating.  I could hardly do anything creative at all for a month.

Now that I've started to break it in a bit, things are going much better.

It's obvious that I work best in about a 6" square space, surrounded by all the detritus inherent in my creativity.

Proof that it never pays to try to be something you're not.

If it's not an old adage, it should be:   
To thine own messy-studio-self be true.

October 20, 2010

Sturee Tribal Village = Afghan Tribal Arts

Tribal Jewelry from Sturee Tribal Village

Is the call towards a nomadic life genetic or does it arise out of need?  In Abdul Wardak's case, I would suggest that he just can's sit down long enough to let the flowers sprout at his feet.  He has to keep moving, throwing petals into the breeze...

Abdul came to the United States about twenty years ago.  It's a long, fascinating story that you will have to ask him about if you ever meet him.  Basically, he arrived penniless in New York, made his way to Chicago and learned how to navigate our legal systems so well that he worked as an insurance agent for 15 years.  Yes, at that time, it does seem like he was planted in one place.  But, in reality, he was already traveling back and forth between Pakistan and the United States for family reasons and then fell in love with the traditional crafts found in his native home of Afghanistan.  Slowly, he started bringing textiles, beads, carvings, metal work, clay and anything he could get back to the United States.  Afghan Tribal Arts was born.  He left the security net of having a job and joined forces with all the other recent immigrants who travel the country in their big white vans, loaded with goods for shows, festivals, galleries, and other outlets.

 Wooden artifacts from Afghanistan.

Abdul's route is from Wisconsin to Florida.  My house is one of the stops in Paducah, Kentucky.  Another is Pendleton, South Carolina.  There, Sturee Tribal Village showcases the retail arm of Afghan Tribal Arts.  Afghanistan is at the heart of the objects shown, but there is also a great collection of African masks, Buddhist statues, and textiles from Japan, Thailand and other countries.

The life of a nomad is not an easy one.  It involves sleeping in cheap motels, constant unloading and then reloading of heavy boxes of beads and other goods, driving for hundreds of miles, losing money on shows that are not well attended and so on.  For Abdul, this life has worn out his hips and fractured his spine.  Now, other family members and friends are stepping in to help him move forward.  My job is to help Afghan Tribal Arts and Sturee Tribal Village get some exposure online.  So, now there is an Etsy shop, facebook pages, a blog and a website.  Although most of my contribution involves sitting in front of a computer screen, sometimes I feel like I am also a nomad in my wanderings on the web.  I get to connect with people all over the world through all of these different venues.  What an incredible time we live in!  And, although selling online is also a tough business, at least it is not such a physically demanding one.  As Abdul sets himself up for surgery in the near future, we all have our fingers crossed that a double hip replacement will give him his life back.  Yes, he is still driving the route, but without the wheels of that white van under him, he can barely walk from one room to another.

 Abdul driving to a bead show.

When you buy something from one of the shops we have listed on this blog, you are buying from people like Abdul.  We are all driven to live out our dreams, to forge ahead with our nomadic spirits.  Every purchase, large or small, is helping to pay a bill, to buy supplies, to feed a family, to keep a small business going.  Those of you who get this, know how much you mean to the chain that makes it all happen.  We appreciate your support and cannot do it without you!  We weave an intricate web that binds us all together, from maker to seller to buyer.  Sometimes the same person is all three, and at other times each will never know the other except through the knowledge that another month has been granted to live this life.

Here is where you can find Afghan Tribal Arts and Sturee Tribal Village on the web:

Sturee Tribal Village in Pendleton, SC (USA)

October 17, 2010

My First Treasury on Etsy!

Rayela Art Treasury: 
"My Eyes Are On This Crazy Beautiful World"

Many of our TAFA Team Members enjoy making treasuries on Etsy.  If they get a lot of attention, they may land on Etsy's front page, so that is a nice incentive.  I had never done one and thought I would try my hand at it.  Whew!  It's not as easy as it seems.  You have to pick the items you want and open it to the item's page so that you can grab the url.  Then you paste it into these boxes on the Treasury form page.  

Once they are all there, you can move them around to what seems like the most pleasing arrangement to you.  It's best to move top to bottom so that the images stay where you want them to.  Then you have to notify everybody that they are in your treasury.  So, the whole thing does involve a chunk of time.

The most successful treasuries have a theme that unites the images into a cohesive story.  I was thinking of the Masaai greeting, "I see you." and how that acknowledgment not only greets the Other, but actually underscores the right to exist.  As we look around at nature, animals and people, how we "see" determines how we meet that presence.  I focused on eyes (or lack of them) as my theme.  And, I love how the diversity of our Team comes through with the images.  You can see treasuries on Etsy on this page:  Click

So, it was a fun experience, but one I probably won't indulge in often as I have so little time to play.  It did increase my respect and admiration for all those Etsians, especially our Team members,  who make the effort to promote their peers (you are not allowed to use your own items).  Kudos to all of you!

Go leave a comment on my Treasury and make my first (and maybe only) Treasury get to the front page!  

My Eyes Are On This Crazy Beautiful World

October 15, 2010

A Cultural Exchange Knit Up

Hand/Eye Magazine has featured an article I wrote about our upcoming fiber arts workshops:

A knitwear designer finds a common language through craft.

Twelve years ago, I moved to my husband’s lovely Aegean town filled with Greco-Roman and Byzantine ruins, tourists, and 30,000 inhabitants. While there were other expats around, I didn’t move to Turkey to cling to my culturally American quirks and remain an outsider. Until I learned Turkish, how could I connect with my many new female relatives, none of whom spoke English?

Read more here.

Bazaar Bayar's TAFA Member Profile 

October 14, 2010

Happy Birthday, Hagar!

Hagar Arnon Elbaz

Hagar has been one of our most enthusiastic TAFA Team supporters, contributing articles for this blog and creating beautiful treasuries for us on Etsy.  Today is her birthday and we wish her all the love and joy a day can bring.  Hagar makes beautiful jewelry out of recycled fabrics, many of them from men's neckties.  She lives in Israel and I am sending these good wishes from Kentucky, USA.  Our TAFA Team is one example of how physical distance may separate us, we can use technology and common interests to bring unity in our little world.  
Hagar exemplifies a quote of Rilke's: 

This is the miracle that happens every time to those who really love: the more they give, the more they possess. 
-Rainer Maria Rilke

Visit Hagar's Etsy shop and purchase one of her beautiful pieces.  What better birthday present could there be than to have one's work acknowledged?  I'm sure that a bunch of sales would make Hagar's day even more special!

Hagar's Member Profile on TAFA: 

Gilgulim by Hagar Arnon Elbaz



October 12, 2010

I am not alone- Is cooperation the solution for us?

Chicken Coop's Path


By Hagar Arnon Elbaz

Reading our fellow TAFA Team posts gives me a lot of encouragement to keep dreaming and going in the path of what I really want to do. For quite a long time we have wanted to create a cooperative of artists. I live in a little town surrounded by a very beautiful rural area full of little  wineries, tiny cheese and food producer's workshops and lots of artists. This area was chosen to serve as a test case in an international project for recycling and cooperative work.  Lucky me! 
I am a great believer of sharing and cooperation in life in general. For a few years I have been following a few women's cooperatives. I got convinced that cooperation is a major way for us artists to survive.

Gallery 12 in the Kibbutz kfar Giladi

One of these cooperatives is situated on the north of Israel in the Kibbutz kfar Giladi, right on the Lebanese border.  It is on a street accessed only by pedestrians which has of a number of  former chicken coops that were turned into artist galleries and coffee shops.  The last Lebanon war (summer 2006) brought this outstanding project to an end. The tenants of "The chicken coop path" were asked to add safety rooms to the galleries and they had no funds to do so.  Everybody left except for a cooperative of 12 women that is called Gallery 12.  Each woman in the co-op is responsible for the shop one day a week and during the rest of the time may work in her studio or on a day job. Other rolls such as marketing, bookkeeping etc are also shared and are the expenses.

Gallery 12

Tomorrow I start taking part in a course for cooperation that will teach me how it really works. Interesting information that I will surely share with you.

Note:  The pictures of Gallery 12 and the "Chicken Coops Path" were taken on a Friday afternoon and unfortunately the gallery was closed. 

October 9, 2010

The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain

For all those middle-aged men and women worried about getting old, especialy worried about decline in mental capacity, Barbara Strauch's book The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle Aged Brain, offers some surprising and reassuring news.

A New York Times medical and science reporter, Ms. Strauch, reviews all the evidence from the latest research in neuroscience, genetics and nutrition to show that while we may not always remember where we had put the keys, our brains can still amaze us. While losing some gray matter, we increase the white stuff (myeline) to process information faster by using both sides of the brain. Our grown-up brain cuts through the chase faster and, with better pattern recognition, it sizes up situations and finds answers quickly. We many not be able to memorize numbers and dates any more, but we know how to "juggle hundreds of e-mails, negotiate a complex deal, and cope simultaneously with a car that talks and a teenager who doesn't". We are much happier and more optimistic because our brains manage emotions better, we have learned to filter out negative experiences and, even more importantly, we also know not to say whatever that pops into our head (Jerry Brown notwithstanding).  In a nutshell, despite all claims to the contrary, youth cannot hold a candle to the middle aged and older is indeed wiser.

The book is divided into three parts with chapter titles like, "Am I losing my mind: Sometimes, but the gains beat the losses", "Two brains are better than one: Especially inside one head", 'Experience. Judgement. Wisdom: Do we really know what we are talking about" and so on. The weakest section of the book, in my opinion, is part three titled "Healthier Brains". Some of Ms. Strauch's claims about certain types of food  and vitamin supplements boosting brain power are unproven at best and should be taken with a grain of salt (pun intended).

Photo courtesy:http://www.grownupbrain.com/default.asp

Overall, it is a good read and guaranteed to make all those middle-aged brains feel better.

October 7, 2010

"Hard Rain is Going to Fall Tonight" Treasury by Hagar

A beautiful new treasury by our Team member, Hagar.  Go click on it and leave a comment!

Hagar's Etsy Shop

October 6, 2010

Invoking the Muse in an Altered State

Howard Finster, one of my favorite artists, was described by a doctor as psychotic.  Howard slept only four hours a night, drank huge quantities of Coca Cola (adding extra sugar to it), chicory coffee and experienced hallucinations where Kennedy, Elvis, Marilyn and others would show up and talk to him.  He was also fueled by his faith.  A Georgia tent preacher, Howard had a vision and felt called by God to paint his sermons.  Whether or not we agree with his world views, he definitely had a muse who propelled him forward to make thousands of works that would influence the folk art world in a profound way.

My muse also feeds on some toxic substances and on my faith.  When I plunge into a project, my hands move on their own, my mind blanks out and I experience a zen feeling which is the closest I can imagine to what the mystics speak about when they reach an altered state of prayer or meditation.  Are we artists all a bit off?  I examine this in a bit more depth in a post on my blog.

Whatever the experience, it must be said that the world would be a much sadder place without our contributions.  Support our TAFA artists by visiting the Etsy shops in our shop catalog above as well as the other artists on TAFA.

October 5, 2010


Can you guess what this is? Check out the hills and valleys, the striations, the little pricklies in the smooth dark green. I don't think I would know either. Anyway, it's the stem to one of the blue hubbard squash in my garden. I love squash stems for their texture. So woody, but those smooth striations of green give it so much character. What textures do you love?

"There is something magical in seeing what you can do, what TEXTURE and tone and colour you can produce merely with a pen point and a bottle of ink."
                                                                                  Ida Rentoul Outhwaite

October 4, 2010

TAFA Team Treasury by Yermit

Here's another TAFA team treasury 
in gorgeous fall colors.

Click here to visit the treasury and leave a comment.

Visit Yermit's Member Profile on TAFA. 

October 3, 2010

Urban Blues by Renate Kirkpatrick

"Urban Blues"

On a recent visit to the big city (beautiful Sydney, Australia), my senses were totally ambushed by the hustle and bustle, the perpetual activity and chaos of the place.  Non-stop traffic streams, roundabouts, flickering buildings, sun struck glass and chrome and unexpected parklands – "Relax...", I told myself… "Embrace the colours, textures and ambience."  ‘Urban Blues’ evolved and is the compilation and impressions of those city images.

October 2, 2010

East Meets West: Fiber Arts Aid Cultural Exchange

by Catherine Salter Bayar

We've launched a project on Kickstarter, the creative arts crowd-funding site, to help us fund our East Meets West fiber arts workshops, in Istanbul's Sultanahmet, starting March 2011.

  • Can fiber arts bridge cultures? 
  • Will women from multiple countries knit up new versions of traditional skills?
  • Is there a common language of craft?

Read the whole story here and spread the word. Thanks!

Visit our shop on Etsy for gorgeous cultural textiles: