Sunday, December 6, 2009

Pete Seeger - A True Blue American

I saw Pete Seeger when I was in junior high at Carnegie Hall. In my mind he is the leading peacenik, the great folksinger, the ardent bring-us-all-together balladeer.

Now I'm watching Pete Seeger's 90th birthday special on PBS. I've been listening to the guy since forever. His voice is a bit wobbly, but his spirit is strong. He looks the same as ever. The long, lanky body, the flowered, peacenik shirt, the humble cap. He still plucks the the banjo, singing with chin jutting out, with pure exuberance, making the whole audience his chorus & back-up singers.

I remember riding a bus past the big NY public library - the one with the lions. Pete Seeger got onto the bus to take it where ever he was going - same peacenik, flowered shirt, same humble cap.

Listen to my 90 year old hero sing Amazing Grace.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Auditor

The State of Indiana decided to send an auditor to AvantGarb. Having an auditor---and our auditor, by the way was a delight, as a person---is really a creative buzz killer.

The auditor was at our studio for 2 full days. I probably lost 4 days of work. The day before she came I scurried around, collecting lots of pages and files full of numbers. For the 2 days she auditing us, the feng shui of my mind was ruined. Then she returned 2 days later to tell me the results of her audit.

I was never able to get into the the swirl of creation. I make the heads for the mascots here in MascotLand. When I'm in the thick of creation, its like I'm on my own planet. There are the materials, the worktable and me. Sometimes I feel like God in the Garden of Eden---oh gosh, is that an arrogant image.

The thing about being in business, is that you are in business and have to deal with the beauracracy of the larger, mainstream world. What I consider the minutia of business, others consider the nuts and bolts of business.

All in all, I'll pick difficult clients over an audit.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Twitter & the Twittosphere twitter or not to twitter---awww, c'mon, join the twitterati!

Of all the social networking sites available, twitter is absolutely, beyond a doubt the most fun.

Now, of course, as a slightly grumpy artist---although de-grumping a bit everyday--I had my own, pretty boring rant about how silly twitter was.

Twitter is silly, which is a strength. It is also smart, compelling and mind-expanding. I am connected to a grand population of mascot people (remember, my arty biz is mascot-making) , marketing people, philosophers,news mongers, fashionistas and my Dad!

One of the people I'm following is Guy Kawasaki wrote recently, great companies are founded on the desire to make meaning—and not necessarily to make money. Sounds like art to me.

Here's the link:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Dozen Don'ts for Entrepreneurs

I've been twittering away and learning things. I came across this article - A Dozen Don'ts---good advice!

Here's the link:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

These economic times!


I have a lot of thoughts about pricing, marketing, promoting the work, but oy vey! these are tough times!

Am I the only small biz person who is working all of the time and kinda staying in the same spot?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Marketing - It's a Conversation

man oh man---as far as I can tell, marketing is really a conversation. It is a relationship, and it had better not be dysfunctional.

At AvantGarb we chat, email, snail mail, tweet, blog and send out e-newsletters. We make renderings, chat some more, tweak this and that---chat some more.

I have come to think that business is what makes the world go round. As a pure artist, we make visible our singular vision, and if that vision makes it in a public venue, where people see it, experience it, react to it---that, alone, is a completely marvelous.

Art is the material world is a collaboration.

Marketing is a continuing conversation.

Common Language Contracts

We are so fluent in what we do. If yours is an arty biz that creates custom projects/pieces, chances are pretty good that your client/customer really doesn't quite know what they're purchasing---or what the heck you're talking about. They aren't fluent in the language of mural painting, mascot making, school performance, storytelling, whatever.

We use lotsa different fabrics, at AvantGarb, when we make mascots. Cavalier as I am, I thought everyone knew what lycra/spandex was. They don't. Now we call it a heavy-duty, stretchy, athletic fabric.

I'm not fluent in computery talk. All of the computer geek guys around AvantGarb try to speak in the simplest, most remedial terms to me. These are just a couple of examples about how we speak the same language, but don't understand each other. when you think everybody has agreed on what will be done where, and for how much, it's a good idea to write it down . Your client may see something in the description and cost they thought they understood, but really don't understand.

Although we speak the same language, we don't all understand the nuances or each others WorkSpeak. A contract may not be poetry. Ideally, it's clear, concise as possible, and blunt.

Here's a really simple sample of a contract. If you forget something important, it will become an issue later. The point of a contact is that everybody understands what is expected.

In a contract we try to find each other's common language.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Art Cred

Fabric has always been the thing that moved me---its my medium. I saw a monumental, soft-sculpture Claes Oldenburg exhibit at MoMA when I was young, I was hooked on the creative possibilities of fabric and art. The giant, soft typewriter was just great and floppy and off kilter. Oh yeah, and the giant tube of toothpaste---ah, the 60's!
So, Oldenburg is partially responsible for my meandering path to art and business. Here's a little synopsis:
  • Friends of the Rag (FOR) in Seattle. We were a band of artists who put on really grand, arty productions at museums, bars, country fairs, society galas, even opening of the aquarium---where I was a Sexy Salmon!
  • Craft fair where I sold Soft sculpture plants in soft pots
  • NEA grant and a moved to NYC.
  • Concieved and produced a series of costume performances like Fashion Passion, Fashion Fever, Fashion Accident at St Marks-in-the-Bowery Church.--- Undercover Work at the Avant Garde Festival---She Shops for Bargains on Canal St.
  • I was a studio artist at PS 1 (now part of MoMA) way, way,way back in the day when artists were awarded studios there---What a place!
  • Worked at the NewMuseum and at MoMA,
  • Met a guy (Jim), fell in love (still in love), got married, had a kid (Annie!) moved to Berkeley
  • Costumed for Beach Blanket Babylon
  • Had another kid (Katie!)
  • Started AvantGarb!!!! - in my Berkely CA garage---where else would a little biz like mine start?
Would I have wandered down this path without Claus Oldenburg?

For more on Clas Oldenburg go to:

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Running a business takes concentration. Don't lose concentration by obsessing over taxes.

Hire an accountant.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

getting the word out

Mom & best friends might know you're in some sorta arty biz, but if they are the only ones who know, you will soon be outta business.

Tell absolutely everybody who might even be remotely interested about your business and what you're selling.

Word-of mouth only a small part of a marketing plan!

A targeted way to get the word out is through electronic newsletters through websites like ConstantContact. Do status updates on FaceBook, join LinkedIn and learn to Twitter---this is advice I should follow---I'm going to join Twitter this afternoon and start tweeting!

Blast the world with news of your business. Follow up with phone calls and e-mail. Make appointment to meet with people who might be able to send biz your way.

Send serious or wacky bits of this and that--anything connected with the idea of your biz.

...oh yeah, and have fun getting the word out.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Art & biz - the 1st step.

There are a few artist who win the "Famous Artist" lottery and actually make a living making their art.

This blog is for the rest of us who make a living outside the art world. We are the artists in the material world and we don't have MBA's!

...but we do have imagination and ideas. However, the path from artist to business can be circuitous.

When I started my business, AvantGarb, I thought I was going to be a costume design studio for avant garde theater. It seems the cosmos had a slightly different idea. AvantGarb's first job was to create a large, wearable chocolate chip cookie for a very small cookie company, my second job was Captain H-P for Hewlett-Packard.

It turned out, I was in the mascot business.

The big decision is to make your art work become your business.

There will be a few twists and turns. You will probably tweak and refine your original idea. We tweak and refine our art. That's how artists do business.