August 19, 2011

SPOTLIGHT Moments!


Personal Stuff: My name is Buffy Hall and I am the Laugher-in-Chief of the Laughing Crafter Studio. I am a professional Whimsy-ologist and veteran Silly Pants whose Inner Child has been running the show for going on 8 years now. I live in Fort Worth (pronounced Foat Wuth) with my long suffering husband of 28 years (John), who still laughs at my jokes and thinks I'm cute. I have been blessed with two fantastic semi adults (Holly who is 26 & Ian who is almost 23) who are actually normal and growing more mature than their mother by the day. I have 3 granddogs that I am crazy about and two cranky cats who will probably outlive us all.
 
I used to have a real job and was an RN for 12 years before I gave it up to be Attila-the-Mom and annoy my children. (warning: I am still a nosey nurse in my head so I have no shame in giving medical advice even if you don't ask for it) Now I play with mud, break glass with a hammer and actually get paid for doing it. I was accepted into EFW last year (they had a weak moment) and have found a wonderful community of artsy-fartsy people who understand why it's so COOL to do the things that we all love so much. I love shiny things, laughing (duh) the thrill of seeing a ball of clay turn into the picture in my head and I love to put ( ) in my sentences.

What's the first thing that you remember making by hand? How and why did you make it?
My first foray into creativity came at the hands of Miss Meadows, my 9th grade Home Economics teacher. Yes, I am that old... We spent half a semester learning to sew which I actually enjoyed alot. However, don't come up behind me and say "invisible zipper" or I might cry. I hate those things..

What inspires you and where do your ideas come from?
Well, overall I would say that direction that my art is going is completely a 'God Thing'. After all, if you look at my work for 2 seconds you can see I'm cross obsessed. But He's more of a broad inspiration. I think that most of my inspiration to call myself an artist and put it out there for public approval (if you want to call it that) comes from my oldest sister Holly. She was a victim of domestic violence when I was 17, long before there were any shelters or programs to help. 

Holly was 12 years older and like a second mother to me, since I was next to last of 5 kids. She was an incredibly lovely person inside and out and a gifted artist who did everything from wire sculpture to wood block prints. God got me through the long painful journey to recover from that personal devastation but somehow it's her face that I see in my head most of the time when I'm creating. In fact, I have a wonderful watercolor painting of her on the wall in the studio to keep me company and sometimes I swear she's  looking over my shoulder saying "Ooooh, I like that one!.." 

What are your favorite materials to work in?
I've been in love with the texture and feel of clay since day one but the unpredictable nature of dichroic glass has had me hooked from the first time too. It's like Christmas every time I open the kiln because, honestly, I can't predict at all how a piece will turn out. It's the absolute best part when I open that door the first time. However, I'm playing with copper PMC now too and my friend Cindy McAlister got me started beading necklaces for my cross pendants. so now I'm a complete menace left alone at a bead show. I blame alot on Cindy but I'm really just an Crazy Artist with A.D.D.

Any tips for selling hand made stuff?
I believe that cultivating an attitude of giving is one big thing you just have to do. I look at it as I'm not selling 'stuff', I am giving people a piece of myself to take with them. You need to let people see the connection between you and your art. If they like you, they will like your art. It's really that simple.

I make it a point to engage with people at shows... talk to them, compliment their shoes, coo over their cute babies, tease the guys about how they got themselves dragged to an art show, get silly and dance if the music is good, whatever... It's all sincere because I LOVE to meet people and talk to them but it's my number one selling tip. If you hide behind the table, don't say hello, don't make eye contact...don't open the door to let people meet the real you, why on earth would they want to take a piece of you with them, much less give you money for it??

Apart from creating things, what do you do?
Periodically my Logic Brain on the right makes it's presence known and demands I do something structured sooooo, I am a junior level website nerd. This all started before the art did, back in the early 90's. (I keep tellin' ya, I am that old) My family and I had a 5 year period of trauma and drama related to Holly's death where we had to go through 3 different trials (looooong other story) and a TON of caca along the way. One of the things we decided to do was to put up a website to garner public support to make these trials happen. (Okay I know this is incomprehensible to most of you but we did not always have cell phones, U-Verse, FB and Twitter... Had to old school it with land lines and dial up.) Anyway, since it was my bright idea, my sister Meg made me figure out how to do it.

So I am self taught in Dreamweaver, Flash, Illustrator, Photoshop and Excel, basically enough to be dangerous and then some. I learned html, had to switch to CSS, learned web design basics (starting with a Zen cart) and now have adapted Wordpress themes, do my own photo editing/graphic design/banners/buttons/headers/biz cards and have become fascinated with how to use social networks to grow your business. (My husband says I should market Insomnia CDs since 5 seconds after I start talking techno babble, his eyes slam shut. I usually throw something at him after that.) I do realize that I am an extreme anomaly among artists. Most I know are not techie at all so I'm actually developing a spin off business to design Wordpress sites and custom FB pages for artists.

What handmade possessions do you most cherish?
It's a toss up between three things: The Christmas that I turned five my mom gave gave me the entire lineup of Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals (I was Christopher Robin of course) that she made in secret at night after I went to sleep. They were the first things that I packed for college and they are upstairs in my jewelry room. Another is a gorgeous quilt that she made from remnants of material from every dress she ever made me. I can look at every hand stitched diamond piece and remember the dresses, all the way back to elementary school. Last, my mom's art form was with a needle and she even restored my 1920's era flapper style wedding dress I bought for $65 bucks in a antique clothing store.

What advice would you give newbies to Etsy? 
First, join a group like EFW. Then practice what I call Good Online Karma: 
Blog about each other, comment on the group Etsy FB page as well as other Etsians, heart each others stores and work, tweet and FB about each other's specials and sales, promote each other through your Etsy circles and Treasuries. 
Then get the Etsy FB widget to post everything in your store right on your FB page and your website
 to complete a circle between your website, FaceBook page and Etsy store. If you don't network, you ain't gonna make it very far.

How do you promote?
Besides everything I just mentioned, I belong to a business networking group that meets for lunch every week. Our philosophy is that if we meet and become friends, business will just naturally flow from that. It really does too. Not all business networking groups are very accepting of artists (What do you really do? is a question I heard more than once..) so my group is pretty special. Let me know if you ever want to go as my guest to check us out!

Describe your creative process.
developed m
y signature glass fused ceramics after I read a one page chapter in a hand building ceramics book. Everyone else had been telling me that you can't fused glass to a ceramic surface and here was this guy saying "Heck yeah you can!" so away I went with it.

As far as where do my ideas come from, sometimes I literally wake up with an idea in my head. Other times I go to the studio and think I'm going to be working on a bowl and the clay has a different idea. My little crookedy churches and my Cats and Bulldogs series (very popular sellers) started out as lessons in my Beginner Hand Building class that I sometimes teach through UTA Continuing Ed. But sometimes it's a piece by another artist that gets the wheel turning in my pointy head. I have a skewed sense of humor to say the least so there's no telling what will come out of the studio next!

What made you first want to become an artist?
Truthfully not that many years ago I would've argued you to a standstill that I didn't have a creative molecule in my body. But I just hadn't found the right creative medium. But somehow I knew five minutes into my first hand building class that I was home. I went to my husband after that class that I was buying a kiln and doing this for real. It was like a switch flipped in my brain and I've been clay crazy ever since. Same thing happened with the fused glass. So here I am at 52, in my third career incarnation and having ridiculous fun! Being a grownup is alot more fun when you act like a kid.
 

3 comments:

Heidy said...

Love it, Buffy! What a great interview.

Sarah at Sima Design said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah at Sima Design said...

Very cool- I loved your title "Laugh-er in Chief" and posted about it even!
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