Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hunting for Treasure

The Treasury an exciting and much used feature within the Etsy Community. Introduced in August of 2006, the Treasury gave community members an opportunity to to act as a curator by personally handpicking 12 of their favorite items and posting the grouping for others to view. Each collection is based on a theme that ties all the featured artwork together for an effective display. These individual lists remain active for 2 days, often soliciting comments from viewers and potential buyers who, with one click, are taken to the featured item in the artist’s store. The best of the best of these member-curated collections are occasionally promoted to the front page of Etsy, making this a valuable promotional tool.

Many artists who belong to an Etsy Street Team will create a treasury to highlight and promote the artwork of their fellow team members. It’s always exciting to get an email from the creator of a treasury announcing that one of my items has been featured. But not all curators contact those whose art they have featured.

I just learned of a site, Craftopolis, that allows an Etsy Artist to search through all the treasuries to find any of their items that are currently being featured. To my surprise, when I entered my shop’s name, ByCoco, under the “Treasure Hunt” tab, it told me that I was a featured artist and gave me the link to the treasury. What a thrill.

On that same site, an artist can perform a gift guide search to see if they are featured in one of Etsy’s popular gift guides. Alas, just as I expected, none of my items are currently featured in a gift guide. But that won’t stop me from returning to Craftopolis every day or two to check again.

Checking for Etsy shop hearts on Craft Cult or checking to see if I’ve been featured in a treasury or gift guide on Craftopolis, may not be the most productive use of my time, but it’s fun. And we all need to mix a little fun in with the task of promoting our shops and selling our wares. So, if you haven’t already tried using Craft Cult and Craftopolis, I suggest you try them both and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Artists are Explorers and Pioneers

Never thought I’d have anything in common with Picasso, but I too can say, “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

Today’s Art Quote

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.
Pablo Picasso

Some of the people I’m closest to have referred to it as a disorder. I can’t tell you how many times throughout my life I’ve fielded the question, “When are you going to settle into one art form?” But I somehow manage to brush off their comments because little brings me as much satisfaction as learning how to do something new.

Pablo Picasso is probably best known for his paintings and his sculpture, though he also left the world with a collection of ceramics, drawings, prints, tapestries, and rugs. Right now, I specialize in stained glass and Bauernmalerei from different regions. Over the years, I’ve also caned chairs, made cut and carve candles, sewn clothes and home décor, refinished furniture, laid tile, sculpted figures out of both salt dough and polymer clay, dabbled in ceramics and photography, and recently have been learning taxidermy. I may even have forgotten a few…

What about you…

Leave a comment and tell us what you’ve dabbled in and what you specialize in and leave a link to your online store if you have one.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Claypatties from Manchester Maine

Potter, Kim Brennan, alias Claypatties on Etsy, is a fellow Maine artist. Her specialty is pottery and her creations are inspired by vintage Weller and McCoy pottery that she and her mother used to find at flea markets. “Those were the good old days,” she grinned. “I work primarily in the drippy greens, blues and earthy browns that are steeped in historical references.”

While reminiscing, she recalled stories of growing up in suburbia, playing hide and seek with the neighborhood kids, and trading prizes they found in Cracker Jack and cereal boxes. Her mother was an avid antique collector, and as a child, Kim, became fascinated with train sets. She says that it was the hours spent creating scenery and staging for the trains that sparked her work with dioramas.

Kim enjoys experimental and non-traditional firings and one of her platters was recently published in the Lark 500 series, “500 Plates and Chargers.”

Some of her favorite things in life include listening to all types of music, Air Stream travel trailers, dogs, New York City, and drinking beer under the stars while firing a kiln.

Living in the northern woods of Maine, I can certainly relate to the star gazing and hope someday to visit her studio in person.

A few of Kim's pieces are pictured in this article but there is also a collection of her pieces spotlighted at the bottom of this page. Clicking on any picture will take you to that item in her shop Claypatties.

Feel free to comment on her work or on this article.

Make Your Voice Heard

I’m not talking about voicing your opinion about the things going on in our nation…no, no, no. I’m talking about having a little fun.

Now’s your chance to vote for your favorite Eco-friendly item out of 60 selected by Etsy from their handmade categories. It’s quite an impressive collection and worth a look.

Want to see? Click HERE.

I found out about this contest from another blog called Circles Are Forever. As you can see from the photo, this artist upcycles bottle caps by painting them and turning them into other functional items. She sells these through her shop on Etsy. That’s worth a look too. I was amazed at all the different things she’s done with bottle caps. Her creativity runneths over…
Have fun and leave a comment if you wish.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tips for Transforming the Ordinary into an Extraordinary Experience...

When making a turkey or ham sandwich, try adding some of your favorite jelly (cranberry, currant, mint, raspberry, etc.) for an unexpected but deliciously complimentary flavor that takes an ordinary sandwich and makes it extraordinary.

Adding jelly to a grilled cheese is also scrumptious.

This “tip” is something my Mom started doing a long long long time ago when I was a child while making sandwiches with the leftover turkey meat from Thanksgiving, and I think of her whenever I do it for my children. And yes sometimes I even do it just for me, and I do it anytime of the year when I want to add a little pizazz.

So Thanks Mom!

Did your mother have a special tip or trick she used to take something ordinary and make it extraordinary? If so, leave it in the comment section below and let me know if I have your permission to post it on the main page.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What does it mean to appreciate the unnecessary?

I’m glad you asked. Many of us are pinching pennies during this time of economic struggle. But if we focus solely on what is necessary for our survival, we can become so pre-occupied with satisfying our hungers (and the hungers of our loved ones) that we become weighed down with practicality. I know that when I slip into this “all work and no play” mentality, I become stuck in a downward spiral of anxiety and miss out on much of the beauty that surrounds me.
Remembering to appreciate the unnecessary in life is the way I become unstuck and the way I reopen myself to enjoying life’s little freebies. For example, eating food is a necessary part of living. It satisfies my hunger and fuels my body so I can accomplish the work I need to do. However savoring the flavor of a bite before swallowing is an act of appreciating the unnecessary that elevates my experience of eating by adding enjoyment to my satisfaction.
Other examples of appreciating the unnecessary might include stopping for a second on my way to the car to listen to the birds sing, or waving back to the child in the rear window of the school bus ahead of me in traffic, or inhaling the aroma of a cup of coffee before taking a sip.
Art is all about appreciating the unnecessary in life. Artists are extraordinarily sensitive to the beauty that surrounds them, whether a physical beauty or the beauty of human experience. They see something beautiful, then they try to depict it in such a way that others will experience a heightened connection to that beauty.
Auguste Rodin, one of the greatest sculptors the world has ever seen, depicted the ordinary everyday act of thinking as something beautiful and noble when he created “The Thinker.” When I saw this piece in person, I was struck with awe at the magnificence of a man pondering his thoughts. Yes, this piece of art pointed to a simple truth that I probably already knew, but I had never before given it a conscious thought. As I circled around “The Thinker” in the garden of the Rodin Museum, I remember marveling at how at man’s ability to think and how that really elevated us above all other animals. The longer I gazed at this statue the more clearly I saw the dignity of every human person. That is an example of how an exceptional artist and one of his masterpieces was a catalyst that triggered a life-altering moment for me.
But what about art that we can enjoy everyday, like the pictures that hang on the walls of our home, the knick knacks on our shelves that remind us of special people and events in our lives, the jewelry and accessories we use to complete an outfit, and other ways we enhance our experience of the ordinary.
All of us can use our creativity to help others appreciate the unnecessary by highlighting the lagniappe in life. Maybe it’s as simple as singing songs with the kids on the way to school, or lighting candles so dinner becomes a dining experience, or leaving a “love” note in your spouse’s pocket where they will find it in the middle of their workday. Maybe it’s taking that old but still functional table and giving it a new coat of paint, or making an arrangement of fresh flowers from the garden for the coffee table. And all of us can pay even closer attention to the beauty that already surrounds us. Making a habit of appreciating the unnecessary (the extras) in life can lift us out of survival mode and give us a general sense abundance.
How do you appreciate the unnecessary? Share your answer with us in the comment section below.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter!

I want to wish every one a Happy Easter. I hope it is a blessed time spent with family and friends and filled with the hope and joy that Christ's ressurection offers to us all. This is a short post as I'm off to celebrate the Easter vigil Mass.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Artfire Cafemom Team: Giveaway #4: aBitofColor!!!

The earrings that are being given away by aBitofColor are the cleverest I've seen in a long time. If you love nature, or live in the woods like me, You owe it to your self to at least take a look. I'm not much of a jewelry person, but I wouldn't mind having these and it's easy to enter. All you have to do is leave a comment to enter.
Are you up to a little friendly competition? Click on the link below and I'll see you in the comments section.

Artfire Cafemom Team: Giveaway #4: aBitofColor!!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Two Penny Post

Today’s Art quote is credited to Wilson (“Bill”) Mizner, who was quite the character and dilettante. Born in 1876, he was one of 8 children and spent part of his childhood in Guatemala. As an adult, he covered a lot of ground from Alaska, to New York, to Florida to California often taking advantage of the unsuspecting in his varied entrepreneurial endeavors. One might even consider him a scoundrel. However he is best known as a playwright and for his clever sayings and witticisms.
Today, Mr. Mizner is cited as having said, “It is not in life, but in art that self-fulfillment is to be found.” Immediately, I want to disagree because I find self-fulfillment in my close relationships with family and friends, and in and through living a faith-filled and faithful life. So, my experience tells me that self-fulfillment can indeed be found in the everyday living of life.
However, after reflecting on his sentiment a little longer, I have to say that creating something artistic in my shop does make me come alive inside in a way that nothing else does. Even being able to gaze at a particularly appealing work of art from another artist can cause a joy to bubble up in my soul that satisfies a longing I didn’t even know I had. So there is most definitely a special type of fulfillment that comes from both the creation and appreciation of art.
I dare say that our ability as humans to create art and to appreciate its creation by others is a distinctive human quality, much like our free will, that separates us from the other animals and connects us in a special way with the divine.
Well that’s my two cents worth. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this subject in the comment section below.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Not an Ansel Adams

"The Long Long Tracks of Life"
by Coco Watkin

Which One Would You Rather Be?

Ansel Adams, a world renown photographer, author and conservationist, is best known for his ability to capture the natural grandeur of our environment. He is quoted (in today's art quote) as having said, "There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer." And that got me wondering which end of the camera I'd rather be on. Right off I'd say I'd rather be the photographer, but when I view a family photograph that captured one of life's special moments, just seeing that picture brings back all the joy of that moment.
How about you? Would you rather be the photographer or the viewer and why?
Leave your answer in the comment section below.

Friday, April 3, 2009

About ByCoco

ByCoco is the shop or studio name being used by Coco Watkin on Etsy and Artfire, both of which are online venues for buying and selling handmade. Right now, she offers heirloom quality stained glass and folk art collectibles, which are hand painted in traditional European styles of decorative painting. Because she likes to dabble in so many mediums, she will occasionally offer other unique items.
Coco's husband operates a small apiary and is an excellent caricature carver. All five of their children are also creative. And her mother in law is a phenomenal water colorist.
Do you know what an apiary is and what other types of products might be available for sale?
Leave your answers in the comments below...

Tips for Transforming the Ordinary into an Extraordinary Experience...

Have you ever tried this?

Use pure maple syrup instead of honey or sugar in your tea. Hmmm, Hmmm, Good!

Leave your tip for transforming the ordinary into an extraordinary experience in the comments section.

Excellence vs. Perfection

Today’s art quote: “Have no fear of perfection—you’ll never reach it,” brings back terrible memories of my childhood and young adulthood when I was a perfectionist.
Have you ever been afraid you weren’t good enough? I grew up with that constant fear and lived moment to moment always doubting myself. It was an oppressive attitude that kept me from reaching my potential.
It wasn’t until I began to see my value as a unique person, that my compulsion to be perfect began to subside. And the more I realized and came to believe “that I am fearfully, wonderfully made” by God (Psalm 139:14) the more free I became to reach my potential.
But in giving up my need for perfection, I never gave up striving for excellence. I’m always in hot pursuit of self-improvement.
As a person, that means ever taking time to consciously recognize my vices and replace them with good habits. As a wife, it means choosing to honor and cherish my husband even when I don’t “feel” like it. As a Mom, it means learning to listen better and to accept my children right where they are even when it’s not where I want them to be. And as an artisan, it means striving to master the tools and materials of my craft. And how do I do that…
I do that by asking questions…
Some would refer to me as “over the hill”, and I have to admit that white hairs are quickly replacing my dark brown ones. My body may be getting older, but I’m young at heart, because despite the wisdom of my years, I’m still eager and ever ready to learn and to grow.
Earlier I said that gaining confidence in my own goodness, freed me to reach my potential. But there’s a funny thing about my potential--I’ll never really reach it either. However, I’m having a good time in the process, and I just keep on getting better and better.
So, do you have a question for me. Just leave it in the comments below.
And enjoy today!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Who is Coco?

I was born and raised in New Orleans where the atmosphere is rich with culture and where imagination is celebrated through its architecture, its music, its food, its Mardi Gras and its other festivals. New Orleans is a large city with a small town flavor and a special love of the arts—visual, performing and culinary.

As a military wife of 30+ years, I've experienced different cultures within the United States and abroad, each exuding their own indigenous artistic flair for transforming the ordinary in life into something extraordinary. Beauty abounds if we just take time to notice.

As the mother of five children, necessity has often been my inspiration and on a fairly regular basis has proven to be the mother of invention. Parenting has been a wild and unpredictable ride, and I'm excited about becoming a grandmother this July (2009).

Among other endeavors, I am a self-taught artisan specializing in stained glass and decorative folk painting (European style stroke work). Over the years, I've also dabbled in carved candles, soap, clay, needlework, fountains, basic carpentry and refinishing, various types of sewing, and jelly making. Often while creating something in my studio, I am tapping into my knowledge of and skill in more than just one artistic medium.

My other passion is for transforming trash into treasure or giving new life to something old. Both the process of creating and the process of transforming objects are spiritual experiences for me--It's when I feel most alive.

I look forward to sharing my infatuation with everything creative. Hope you will visit often (bookmark me now or subscribe to be a follower of this blog). Read about what interests you, and please, Please, PLEASE, leave your comments, make suggestions, and ASK QUESTIONS. Questions can be about art & craft techniques, selling on line, life in general, or even about me personally.