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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Here's a Good Idea with No Strings Attached

Honestly, it's good to know that when I'm finally ready to go to Crazy Town, I can count on some of you to join me there. We'll have fun. It'll be like summer camp.

I was envisioning a smackdown between Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange. They were getting into it over who gets to take photos of Depression Era migrant workers. Because god knows you can only have one person doing that sort of photography.

The truth is that real artists don't have time for that shit. They're too busy creating and doing to worry about what other people are up to.


I was thinking about the subject of the previous post, and what it means to have good ideas and what it means to be an artist. I learned my lesson about this a long time ago:

1. There is no such thing as an original idea.
2. No matter how good you think you are, there's always someone out there who's a. doing what you're doing already, and b. probably doing it 1000 times better than you are.
3. You can't prevent other people from doing the same thing as you. And if you were to even try, all it does is diminish you.
4. If you call yourself an artist and you end up being jealous of other people's skills, or whatever your insecurities are that make you think that you're the only one who can do what you do and that it's possible for other people to steal your thunder, you're going to be fucking miserable.


Years ago, I used to make very intricate and complicated jewelry using glass seed beeds. Someday I'll find some photos to share with you. I didn't start out wanting to make jewelry or even thinking of having a business.

I went to a Native American Pow-wow one summer evening and saw the most incredible, delicate beaded jewelry ever. These tiny tiny glass beads were woven, some on looms, some without, into gorgeous colorful patterns that adorned everything from bracelets to coverings for drums and rattles.

I became totally fixated with learning how to bead in this style, specifically the Peyote stitch. Within a very short time, I'd amassed a collection of Japanese seed beeds, silk threads and wax. And the tiniest, thinnest needles you ever saw. I pored over issues of Bead & Button magazine and taught myself as much as I could. I knew a lot of my work wasn't so good but I kept going because it was so much more fun to make things then to actually wear them.

But then I got to the point where I started wearing my jewelry and people would stop and ask me where I got my necklace or my bracelet. Pretty soon I was selling stuff off my neck, so to speak. Frankly, it was the activity of creating that I loved, seeing the combinations of colors and the piles of beads made me dizzy.

Enough people finally suggested that I should sell my work, so a friend and I went in together on booth rentals and started doing some local crafts faires. I was pleasantly shocked every time someone whipped out a checkbook and wrote me a check for $100. And then we started taking credit cards and I made even more money. Not enough to live on (I had a full-time job and no interest in making jewelry for a living anyway) but the money sure kept me in more and more beads, and classes with bead artists and a trip to the Portland Bead Show.

After a while, I started getting people photographing my work. Some people said right out loud that they wanted to copy my designs. But the truth is this: for anyone who devotes more than 10 minutes to any form of art, you can't control that stuff. And why should you care? In the big picture, it really doesn't matter. Let them copy your stuff, if they can. Do they have the hours to invest and the actual talent to make something people will be interested in, or take that next step and buy?

I always felt that if someone didn't have an idea of their own, then they could copy mine because, hell, I'm going to come up with new ideas all the time.

It's not like I'm running out of ideas anytime soon.


So up top, what you see pictured is the one and only good idea I had last week. In order to take my makeup kit with me to photoshoots, and to have a place to put my camera too, I got the idea to go to the art supply store to see what they might have. Makeup artist cases, even the ones on wheels, are extremely heavy and really take a toll on your hands and wrists. I took my original kit to New York for a job and the lovely Nigerian cab driver asked me if the case was full of gold bars as he tried to heave it into the trunk of his cab. When I told him the case had lipsticks in it (the equivalent of gold bars to a makeup artist), he looked at me like I was kidding him or out of my mind.

And lo and behold, at the art supply store, they make a backpack where the front flap folds down and you can put a whole bunch of brushes in there, and then a big open space for makeup in ziploc bags. There are little pockets on the sides for batteries and business cards, and there's room for a camera as well.

And the best part is that you have your hands free to take photos while you're walking to your next photoshoot.

So I'm a one-stop shop: makeup artist and photographer combined.

So that's my fun and free idea, except the backpack costs $39.95.

Run with it, folks.


J9 March 3, 2009 at 8:50 PM  

My camera bag is trashed, and have been looking for something else, as I'm not happy with the one I have and how it functions for me. Does this one have any padding in the large compartment? I was looking at on eon line that is carried at REI, but I have to get my butt out there to see if it will work with my camera, lenses, flashes, and it would help if it had straps to carry tripods...
Just putting it out there.

tangobaby March 3, 2009 at 8:58 PM  

I'd have to say that if you want a traditional bag, this might not be the best option. I wanted something that I could use as a backpack, had a place to put all kinds of brushes, and generally a large area for makeup and a camera.

I don't have a lot of apparatus for the camera (lenses and such) that need to be protected. You'd either have to add that, or look for something more sturdy.

But for a whole bunch of makeup, brushes and a fairly small camera, it's great. Have you looked at Adolph Gasser here in SF?

ps. I can't find your email! ;-)

Mari March 3, 2009 at 9:21 PM  

Your brushes are awesome! Can't wait to see the beadwork in some futurepost.

~DokterKenny March 3, 2009 at 9:22 PM  

Why do you take makeup to photo shoots? and Christ almighty why does it weigh so much?

Blue Sky Dreaming March 3, 2009 at 10:34 PM  

Keep doing what you're doing and enjoying your life...there will always be cry babies and email complainers.
When you have the time or if you have any left...I'd also like to see your beadwork jewelry.

julochka March 3, 2009 at 11:28 PM  

i'll bet crumpler makes one that would do this too. except then it would have that really loud velcro sound.

you'll need a bigger one when you start schlepping lenses around.

Red Shoes March 3, 2009 at 11:36 PM  

Why, she takes makeup to photoshoots so her models can look pretty and feel spoiled! Having TB do your makeup is a real treat.

Adan March 4, 2009 at 5:38 AM  

Crazy Town. Population....you!

This is what I like to call...taking it to the next level

Just Jules March 4, 2009 at 6:16 AM  

Seriously I am looking into flights to SF just so I can put on those eyelashes and have you take my pic!

Char March 4, 2009 at 6:25 AM  

some of my friends use diaper bags instead of camera bags...I can't because I have too many lens to knock around together. Now...that being said. I've thought about your person and what you said about diminishment. I have this one person that copies almost everything I do, they go into my friend's list and befriend them, it's like a shadow. I decided to treat it as a compliment that I was doing something right. Obviously you do things right baby for people to copy you! Rock it! :)

Anonymous March 4, 2009 at 10:26 AM  

I am continually amazed by how almost identical our roads are. Why don't I see you in the next lane????

I too started beading (preferring the sparkly, faceted variety), and soon had people buying stuff off my neck. Everyone urged me to do a line for Nieman, open an Etsy store, etc. But I never went anywhere near as far as you did, opening booths and taking credit card sales. I finally sold my entire bead collection (which was only collecting dust and taking up much room) on eBay.

I have also done "art", which likewise received all sorts of urging to be sent into galleries. Because it was SO ORIGINAL.

But humans have been around for a long time, and unless it is created with a brand new technology, whatever we create will likely have been done by someone(s) else, somewhere else, sometime else.

The only healthy way to view this is that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery".

Yoli March 4, 2009 at 12:26 PM  

By all means please show us your bead work! Forget loony emails, there will always be people out there trying to discourage instead of help.

rosedale's 4head March 4, 2009 at 6:36 PM  

this says it all, folks: "while you're walking to your next photoshoot"---SF is such a big, odd, see-everything you've never seen City. i still call my lil sis to be my guide, and my very best friend in Berkeley. couldn't make it through without 'em. i think there's enough unique people in SF for any photographer. the thing a blamer-claimer needs to ask is: "is my work as good as her work?" 'cause only, if and only if, the work is good can she walk to a "next photoshoot"...an oh-so simple fact.

keep doing your love, your eye says it all....