Building an Art Career: How to become a Juggling Women

©2010 Helen R Klebesadel, Social Patterns: Sustenance, Watercolor, 60 x 80, diptych, in the collection of the artist

                  I am slowly coming to grips with the fact that I am stimulated by variety. My Juggling Woman alter ego is in full force. I have come to accept that I am the reason I am so busy all the time as I work to build an art career while working a day job and maintaining a happy family life. Like most people I am also working hard to watch my budget, get enough exercise, eat right, and keep my family life healthy and engaged. I am both crazed by the effort and find joy in the fact that I am in a position to be able to focus my attention on the things I love.

There is no doubt about it, building an art career is a lot of work, and this blog is part of my renewed effort to bring my art out into the world in a larger and more productive and financially rewarding way. I figured out that if I was going to do this I might as well do it in a way that others could observe and benefit form.

It has been quite an interesting and productive period of time for me recently as I work to balance my multiple interests: art making, day job, teaching, and planning and promotions for future and current projects. In the last few weeks I have:

• returned to my day job after time out of the office on vacation and am catching up on all my fall projects including facilitating the planning a state-wide conference next spring focused on topics of interest to women’s and gender studies faculty, staff and students in the region (more later).

• worked on my curriculum for a week-long beginning watercolor workshop I’m teaching in at Bjorklunden in beautiful Door County, September 19-25 (Join us.  You can bring a friend and stay in a lovely lake side lodge!).

• sent off fourteen artworks for an exhibition in the Madison City Comptrollers Office (if the Mayor has a press conference look over his shoulder to see one of my artworks).  You too can apply to show your work there.

• spent as much time in the studio as possible as I am working on new work for two fall exhibitions (house and yard work ignored for the foreseeable future). I’ll be showing with Yueh-Mei Cheng and Peg Ginsberg at the Grace Chosy Gallery in November , and I have a small solo exhibition going up in the Wendt Gallery on the UW-Madison campus in October. Of course I’m not painting the works I thought I would as new ideas sneak in and demand my attention.

• attended a planning meeting for my participation in the Madison Open Arts Studios coming up the weekend of October 2-3, with a preview exhibition at the Overture Center Galleries, opening October 1, 6-8 PM.  As a part of this event a wonderful Artist Directory featuring this year’s participating artists is now available.

• worked on three longer term collaborative projects with other artists I love, that we hope to tour nationally and internationally. This entails planning for grant writing, approaching possible venues, and exhibition and touring planning, not to mention scheduling time to get together/communicate over the next year or so to make the work.  I’ll share more about these as they progress.

• worked on planning a visiting artist gig for the art department for a University in Minnesota I have wanted to visit for a while to see how a favorite related art major/basketball player is doing.

• worked on the retrospective exhibition of my friend, the late Rae-Atira Soncea which will open at the Overture Center in Madison, Wi in October (more information coming).  This project is being funded in part by a Madison Arts Commission grant that Madison residents can apply for.

• planned to send some time teaching and coaching other artists (an important part of my social life since I only do this with people I like to hang out with).

• scheduled my time-tithe to arts and activist organizations doing work I want to support).

• and I’ve been social networking my heart out by scheduling time for reading and posting and researching opportunities in the arts and writing about them here, and on other blogs.

In the interest of sharing and recycling, here are some of the things I’ve discovered and shared on-line in recently:

I discovered and for a small fee joined TAFA, the Textile and Fiber Artist list. The TAFA List membership in international and includes businesses that belong to fiber artists and crafters, development projects, cooperatives, online shops, wholesalers, designers, galleries, museums, organizations, writers, publishers, and collectors. The list aims to help all of these different groups come together in an illustrated database (see my profile click here.)   The common denominators for the members are the love of textiles, both old and new, their place in society, and the need for an accessible market.

TAFA just started in February 2010 and was the brainchild of Rachel Biel, otherwise known as Rayela Art. Rachel has her own blog, Fiber Focus for textile and fiber addicts who are interested in the world.  I wrote two essays for Fiber Focus as Rachel’s request. “I love Quilts” is about my large-scale watercolors celebrating the crochet work and quilting that were the creative work of the women I grew up around in rural Wisconsin.  I also wrote a step-by-step tutorial on how I use my art to create designer fabrics using If you are wondering how to do it, wonder no more. You can figure out how to do it yourself here.

Sharing your knowledge turns out to be a great way to get attention. My tutorial has been shared widely already in the on-line fiber community, which is great for me as it has brought attention to the fabrics I have for sale on Spoonflower in a way that has  increased sales. This however was the blog post that had me laughing out loud and posting to Facebook was this one you can find here.

So, building an art career is both hard and rewarding work. It does require me to be a juggling woman.  It requires more hands than I really have to keep everything I love in the air.  I’m keeping my eyes on the sharp stuff, and while I’m not really noticing that many of the things I’m dropping are finally getting a change to root and grow, I am starting to see there are others out there doing the same thing I am.  Maybe we can start working together!

Mostly I feel extremely lucky that somewhere along the way I was able to give myself permission to be an artist.

©2010 Helen R Klebesadel, Social Patterns: Sustenance -detail, Watercolor, 60 x 40


About Helen R. Klebesadel

I am an artist.
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9 Responses to Building an Art Career: How to become a Juggling Women

  1. oh Helen, thank you again for writing all of this. i too relate to the juggling as I now am Chair of southeast chapter of Wisc Visual Artists, VP at the state level, “artist coordinator” for Milw Artists’ Resource Network (MARN) spring fundraiser, co-curator for the Jane Doud art collection exhibit at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts in the fall of 2011, in addition to all of the personal family and friend obligations and oh yes!!!!! a painter with several deadlines looming. I have one at the moment that must be resolved, completed finished and framed by Fri a.m. oh my, oh my
    Love your work! thank you again.

    • Hello sister juggler. If you look into the painting I posted you can see there are other people scattered throughout the landscape juggling as fast as they can. My hope is that by sharing resources and opportunities we can all juggle fewer things, but that will require stopping ourselves from picking up new things to juggle.

  2. Rachel Biel says:

    Whew! Reading your “Have Done” list left me panting with exhaustion, but also stimulated. One of the women in my Fiber Art Group (Paducah Fiber Artists), Lily Liu, has said “Make every minute count” so many times now that it’s our inside joke. But, time management is a constant challenge to me. I look around and everywhere I see tasks that need to be done. It is true that when I look back, I also see how much HAS been done. But, artistically, my creative side has been on the low rung of the ladder and I have to figure out how to make that happen, too.

    Thanks for plugging TAFA and my blog. You have already been an inspiration to me and I hope that all of this work that we all do will generate great results, build community, and help us each to have the strength and vision to keep forging ahead.

    • Rachel,
      You are doing awesome work in connecting the international fiber community. I’m so excited to find TAFA and your blog Fiber Focus and want more people to know about both of them. Its the connections to each other that can keep us going in the lean times, emotionally, economically, and otherwise.

      I have two bits of never fail advice with regard to doing the creative work in the midst of all the other calls on your attention.

      1) Do the art first. Everything else that needs to get done will get done, but do the creative work first while you are fresh and have full attention and before you rev up into multitasking. It will make everything else you do in the day feel more satisfying and it will ‘put your art eyes on’ so that you see everything through the lens of an artist for the rest of the day.

      2) Make a list of all your priorities so you can see and remember everything you want to get done. (Once its on the list you have honored it and recognized it and reminded your subconscious you are working on it). Once the list is made and prioritized, chose anything on it you feel like doing (no matter how far down the list it is). This way you can be productive and feel like you are getting away with something at the same time. Eventually everything gets done (But of course more things get added to the list too).

      In the studio I’ve learned to let my desired lead me so, while I may have made a work plan, I don’t make myself to what I think I ‘should.’ I work on whatever I’m called to do. My energy changes a lot so some days I have attention for careful detailed work and some days I just want to throw paint around. I’ve found it unproductive to fight my own instincts.

      Thank you Rachel for introducing me to a whole new community!

  3. Aletta says:

    I love the image of juggling woman and your advice to focus on the creative first and then on what captures interest from the “to do” list of priorities. Everything happens more easily when it is done from the creative energy.

  4. Leisa Rich says:

    As a juggling woman myself, I can relate to everything said here. “I am woman, hear me roar” and “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan” and “Kissin’ Don’t Last, Good Cookin’ Do” are my favorite mottoes. I am a working woman, a mother, an artist, a wife, a daughter, a volunteer, a grandmother and more. I achieve more in one day than many I know achieve in one week. I have accepted myself as an artist who bucks the usual and who will probably never achieve financial success. I pat myself on the back for trying. If I could only have the time of the people in my life who tell me they are “bored”!

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