Unsung Heroes…. I want to read about them.

Today I wanted to write about a subject that is constantly being raised amongst my creative friends. We become frustrated, disillusioned and despondent about our chosen paths when we read in magazine articles or blogs about the instant and meteoric rise of artists/designers/artisans.

The scenarios for these stories are fairly standard but here is one. Firstly they give up their day job, or start a family and decide to work from home, or have just finished a degree in visual arts. Then they begin to make __________ (insert a product) and show their friends and family the finished product. Friends and family promptly begin buying from them; this rapidly escalates to orders being placed from stockists, all this resulting in them having a viable business which affords them a comfortable living in a fairly short span of time.

Anyone in a creative industry will tell you that it is a crowded market and highly competitive. There is no such thing as overnight success. The people who rise to the top and have longevity are those who are diligent with their making and marketing; possess faith in themselves and their products and those, most importantly, who don’t give up.

So I am writing this post to congratulate them. Congratulations to those who have a day jobs, look after their families and still manage to create beautiful handmade products. To those who work on their creative careers on weekends, late at night or early in the morning. To those who run their business not from an airy all white studio but from the kitchen table or garage. To those who have sent in countless images and pitches to magazines, blogs and galleries only to be rejected time and time again. You are the unsung heroes who demonstrate a stubborn persistence to success in your craft when it would be easier to just give up and have a cup of tea.

To the makers who overcome fear and focus on the optimism required when you put yourself and your products into the world for scrutiny. I am in awe of all the creatives that never take ‘no’ for an answer and just keep knocking on doors. I wanted to give voice your stories and let you know that you are seen and valued. I applaud your striving to build a business which is financially viable and emotionally sustainable.

I hope that readers understand that behind every story of success there is always a tenacity which doesn’t allow failure to deter that person’s ambitions. Maybe magazine editors and bloggers believe that writing about the difficulties encountered by makers does not make for good reading. Let me disavow you of that notion. I for one, would find it aspirational to read about a person entire journey. To learn what difficulties they encountered along the way and how they have not only survived but thrived.

Those are the stories I would like to see more of and I truly believe after talking to people that I am not the only one. So I’d like to send out a challenge to editors and writers at large to consider when they next are writing or commissioning a story about a designer to give us the ‘whole scoop’ warts and all; so that we as readers can cheer them on because we have been privy to their vulnerability as well as their successes.

PS: When I read stories about makers I never make assumptions that they have had it easier than anyone else in their industry. What I object to is the one sided picture that we as readers/fellow artists are given by the writers and editors of these stories.

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Fire Away (no need to dial 000)…..

Cones at the end of a firing.

Cones as evidence of Elisa’s first firing.

It was a miserable wet Sunday in Sydney and the perfect day for firing my kiln for the first time. As many long time readers of my blog will know this has been a long time coming. I bought this kiln in an Ebay bidding frenzy a few years back, before I had a studio, and it has been stored in my Mum’s garage until late last year when it was installed in my little shed.

I have already admitted to be a ‘fraidy cat’ when it comes to firing and to honest I don’t know why I was so fearful about this side of ceramics. At university students had to organise their own firings whether going solo or fitting in with a group firing; at TAFE it’s a little different, you can book kilns but there are always a variety of firings happening and all you have to do is leave your objects on the appropriate shelves and they will be stacked in the kiln by our wonder studio technician Danni.

My escapade started on a Saturday afternoon when I finally pulled out the manual that came with the kiln. With a cup of coffee next to me I began reading and almost immediately shouted “WTF does this mean?”. I could write a whole post about manuals and the people who write them; surfice it to say when writing this instructional tome the author didn’t bother taking into consideration the (I’m assuming large) proportion of readers who just want very simple instructions for a very simple kiln.

I put the manual down and reverted to Professor Google and his sidekick Dr Youtube. Both gave me minimal success with some bright spark posting a 29 second video of the controller of their Duncan kiln. Boring cinematography and of absolutely no use to anyone.  After 3 hours of searching the net and trying to understand the manual I temporarily gave up on my quest and went to have a glass of red wine.

Fast forward to the following Wednesday and I’m at TAFE having a whinge to my friends about the woes of  kiln firing. Tann pipes up with “Have you tried “Help For Australian Potters – Advice & Tips on Facebook? Maybe post a picture of the kiln and controller and see if anyone can help.” So I did that and amongst the few good folk who answered my cries for help was Jocelyn Hee. We have never met but Jocelyn has my exact kiln and she not only went to the trouble of typing very specific instructions on how to fire it but also gave me her mobile number in case I became stuck. Jocelyn Hee you are my own personal kiln angel and I thank you.

What were the results?  After 8 hours the kiln automatically turned off, way too early for the firing to be successful; but at the end of it I felt like Leo DiCaprio on the Titanic shouting “I’m king of the world.”.  I had 3 shelves inside the kiln with temperature cones on each shelf so I could understand how the kiln fired and if there are cold/hot spots. The image above shows how the cones looked at the end of the firing.

I don’t really care that it didn’t work because it was a learning exercise and now I understand how the controller operates. It’s wonderful when you conquer your fears because even the small ones can keep you from achieving your goals. and yes Vicki Grima, I feel free, free free.

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Table Talk 2

Elisa Bartels at Kerrie Lowe Gallery

Hi Folks, you all know how passionate I am about welcoming handmade tableware into your home as I’ve previously posted the contents of my sideboard. Table Talk 2 rejoices in the beauty and rich narrative history of handmade tableware and so I was very happy to be asked by Kerrie and Elizabeth to participate in this exhibition. My bowls are certainly amongst illustrious company. Opening night is next Friday, 1 May. Hope to see you there.

PS: There are some perks to having your surname at the top of the alphabet. I’m first on the list of participating artists. Woot Woot.

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Tassels are so Downton Abbey…..

Ok I’m going to start by outing myself as a Downton Abbey tragic. Just last night I was screaming at the television “What do you mean it’s not on tonight!!!!!” All I could say was thank god ‘Vikings’ was playing otherwise there would have a been a prize winning tantrum.

Ceramic ornament by Elisa Bartels

Ceramic Ornament

I enjoy Downton for so many reasons other than the storyline. Actually, there are only two other reasons – the clothes and the house. I spend the good part of an hour sighing at the beautiful garments the women wear and the grandeur of the manor. Now whilst I would not be pleased to live in a time where women were seen as light-headed ornaments; the ornaments within the house have my blessing.

So I pondered to myself, “How can I bring a slice of Downton into the 21st Century? This line of thought ended up with a small production of ceramic ornaments. They are perfect for draping over a lamp or hanging on the sideboard.

Ceramic ornaments designed by Elisa Bartels

Ceramic ornament on my lamp

The balls have been hand-rolled from coloured clay and some have been glazed to add a little sparkle. They are the modern equivalent of the tassel, a very popular embellishment during various times last century.

Ladies and Gents, I’ve just added them to my store if you fancy adding a piece of modern Downton to your home.

PS: Small confession: I’d love a lady’s maid – someone who would put away my clothes at the end of the day and go to the village to buy me prophylactics for a forbidden tryst. Aah the ‘good old days’.

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Man bag ? I think not….

Eco-Dyed Purse

Eco-Dyed Purse

The other day I was listening to a radio program which was devoting an hour to discussing gender neutrality. What it means and where it’s at in the 21st Century. Various people rang in mainly discussing their children; little boys who wanted to wear dresses and tiaras and girls who played pirates and zombie ninjas. One of the conclusions was that children didn’t see a gender divide until it was pointed out to them by family, friends and that anonymous but pervasive beast, Society.

Fast forward to a few days later and I saw a client who had just purchased 2 purse from my store. “Guess what Elisa?” she exclaimed. “I gave one of those purses to a male friend as a gift and he loved it.” “Looks like my pieces are gender neutral.” I quipped.

It’s an exciting time to be alive when both men and women are breaking out of tight prescribed gender confines and collecting aspects of both gender which fits them mentally and physically. More so I’m pleased that there’s a guy out there enjoying one of my creations and using it on daily basis.

Now I realise that the topic of gender encompasses a broader range of issues both physical, mental and phycological  and has more nuances that I have discussed. However, it’s funky seeing it play out in such a small but, I believe, significant way. As with anything, ie gender, which has become ingrained over millennia it will take time to break down barriers and configure new definitions. A bloke with a purse is a great start.

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Feeding the beast…

Elisa Bartels visits the studio of a metal artist

Ironmonger’s Studio

When you are an artist running a creative business you wear many hats. Some of them exciting – making floating mosaics and blackfired vessels and other onerous but necessary. One of those task is feeding the beast that is social media. This year I included Instagram into my creative life and I am pleasantly surprise by how much I enjoy feeding this little beastie.

What happens when you fire earthenware to a high temperature.

What happens when you fire earthenware to a high temperature.

ceramic tools

Tool of the trade

It’s quick and easy and  I enjoy using my phone to capture certain times of my day to share with you. I never feel alone and love being able to share surprising moments, crazy situations and unexpected beauty.

There is a wonkiness to my images and pardon me if they are not slick but I see Instagram as a means to share my day with you and most times I take an image quickly between jobs and can’t always make them pretty. I want you to feel as if you’re beside as the action is unfolding. Having said that, I have included a few images in this post which I’ve tried valiantly to pose and primp.

Come follow me @elisabartelsdesigns

Elisa Bartels blackfired bowl and plate

Blackfired Bowl and Plate

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Eco-Dyed Purses and Pouches

Elisa Bartels Designs - eco dyed cotton purse

Elisa Bartels eco dyed cotton purse

Reach into your bag and find your cotton purse which is imbued with nature. Your fingers gently caress the maple leaves which are printed on its surface and you smell the faint scent of Lilly Pilly and Eucalyptus.

As you hold this purse you begin to breathe deeply and gently even if you find yourself on a bustling city street. For a moment you have been transported to the country.

Elisa Bartels Designs Eco Dyed Cotton Purse

Elisa Bartels eco dyed cotton purse

You smile knowing that each time you hold your eco dyed purse you will to experience those sensations.

(To find my eco dyed purses and pouches go here.)

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