Forage round up (a long overdue post)

It’s been a
while now that I’ve been intending to fill you in on a pretty amazing event I
was involved with late this summer. I’m sure I mentioned Forage {a gathering of ideas & makers} at some point, but my
intention all along was to actually share some of the knowledge and experience
that I gained at the symposium with you all.
But where to
begin? Forage itself was an
interesting project to be involved with from it’s infantile stages. I believe
it was Kari Woo and Mariko McCrae that got the ball rolling in the beginning
inspired by the ALT Design Summit that brought together a range of bloggers and cultural producers
for a get together to share knowledge and build community. I basically was a tag along in the brainstorming process of how, what, and
where we could create a similar event. Ideas with those two incredible women
don’t take long to turn into reality and soon enough there were lists of
possible participants, locations, topics to be covered and the like floating
back and forth through emails and google docs. A few other great minds like Cathy Terepocki, Lia Tajcnar and Bianca Gignac joined the brainstorm and once the excitement started to
build there was no turning back in our minds. This had to happen.
What was it
exactly? Well the idea was to bring together a group of cultural producers,
artists, designers, photographers, small business owners, bloggers, writers, art
historians and the like for three days worth of keynote speeches, panel
discussions and show and tell all related to basically anything to do with
independent artistic production and small business. There was a lot to cover,
but with the invite list of participants and attendees growing steadily there
was plenty of talent to pool from to cover such topics as: 
Growing our Brands
The Professional Practice of Blogging
Seeking the Love; How to find your Audience.
A Curious Cocktail: Mixing Art, Life and Business.
Opening and Running a shop. Brick & Mortar versus Online.
Show me the money: Grants and Other Creative Sources of Funding.
Diversifying = Diversion?
Building a Team:
In Partnership we Trust.
There was a
lot of meat to sink out teeth into; a range of topics that would appeal to many
was the idea. And in the end I think that the symposium was incredibly
successful as a inaugural event that was pulled together online and mainly
thanks to the tireless work of Mariko and Brian McCrae from Feedlot Studios
FeedlotStudios, the home and workspace of ceramic artist extraordinaire -Mariko MacCrae, on
Gabriola Island just off of Vancouver Island,
was an idyllic getaway location that served as a perfect environment of quiet
and focus for the event. This also meant that the attendees were part of a
small intimate group of about forty due to space restraints. This in the end
encouraged a more relaxed environment for exchange. Panel discussions had the
feel of a cup of tea between friends as attendees as well  presenters all had relevant
contributions to the discourses. 
But okay,
enough of that right? Your wondering what it was that we actually talked about.
Well that will be hard to sum up without being verbose. But allow me an
Gignac really set the tone for the three days with her Keynote on Growing your
brand by walking us through how she went from an idea to a sustainable income
generating online travel based business. She was motivational in her
discussions of the challenges and process. Business from this point on seemed
to be a focus for most of the presenters. 
Myself I was
there to speak to social media initiatives and how to balance life, art and
family. The space I’m at currently in my career being a bit of a staled work in
progress since the birth of my second son meant that I was there less to talk
about a successful business plan but rather how to stay creative, motivated,
visible and engaged in a community even when daily life takes over. 
I gleaned a
lot from the business practices of others. I marveled at the dedication and perseverance needed to get the job done. Independent artists are some of the
hardest working people I know. They are creative minds, object producers,
accountants, researchers, marketing agents, international shippers, bloggers,
critics, teachers, volunteers, parents and good friends all in the course of a
day. For me I realized that I needed to walk away from the expectation I had on
myself that while my children were young I could realistically make sculptural
work, design functional objects, blog, teach, get my work out there and still
have time for dinner and bedtime stories at the end of the day. Same as there
are a million models of how to run your business, there are also an equal
amount of consideration that needs to go into all the decisions and
realistically sometimes you are not in the right time and place in your life to
do the things you want or need to do. I walked away with insight for building a
five and ten year plan. I now have a better sense of what I can do in the
meantime while my children grow that will still nurture my creative projects long
But are
these tangible things I could write out in a list for you to follow? I wish. 
Some of the presenters had built their business to the point where they were at capacity; where for further growth dramatic shifts towards industry, partnerships, and employees has to be considered. Would my artistic practice ever get to that stage? Would I want it to? Not sure if I’m the type to hand over any sort of control. And I questioned for me if that would inherently change the mandate and philosophy of my work. Mandates and philosophies can shift over the years, grow and be edited. So I guess I have to think about what the core values I (and subsequently) my work stand for.
One of the key ideas that was tossed about was about the creation of a personal story. The idea of building and selling a brand makes what we do seem very commercial, but it is a relevant discourse. To put the tone of a personal story behind the creation of a brand; the idea that you’re selling yourself, your story, a humanity and connection through the objects you make, can be beneficial to success. How do we convey through images, text, artist statements, blogs, and social media marketing tools the nature of our work, the values that are instilled, a desire for the consumer to covet our work, our story, our desire for the creation of handmade objects?
I was really inspired to hear personal stories of how different artists have gone about this. There were many examples of crafters that I’ve long admired and to gain insight into the inter-workings of their success was inspiring. I think the general feeling most of us left with was that anything truly is possible and that community could play a big part of our individual success. Mariko ended the event with a great talk about the different collaborations and initiatives that Feedlot Studios has taken on in the past few years. She was notably gracious in her thanks to that many members of the community that have been a part of her story. I think we all felt very similar that we owed a great deal of thanks to others, that collaborations small and large (with individuals and industry) could be of benefit, and that none of us work in a void. 
There were inspiring people everywhere, a serene environment to relax, inspirational work to surround ourselves with. I doubt there was anyone not in agreement that a similar event would have to be organized for next year and each subsequent year after.  There are simply too many topics to cover, too many ideas to share, to many stories to tell. I personally will be active in my interest and involvement for this type of event in some way shape or form to happen again. Canada is a wealth of creative minds and this should be celebrated and showcased.
One other treat of the symposium was to hear Julia Krueger speak of her own studio practice as well as her tireless work in areas of curating, research and writing. She is a craft historian extraordinaire and we as crafters are so lucky to have such passionate people around. She will be instrumental in the writing of a Canadian Craft History, I’m sure of it. She is already well on her way. Just check out the guest post she contributed on musing shortly after the symposium.

So I am entirely grateful to all the wonderful people that contributed to this event. I’m sure this is only a base from which to grow and build community. A sincere thanks must also be given to the Saskatchewan Arts Board. Without their financial support I wouldn’t have been able to attend this event. They have been amazing in their support of my practice over the years and I am thankful yet again for their support of my practice and the arts and crafts in Saskatchewan and Canada. 

Register now for upcoming MISSA Workshops

 Billy Ray Mangham                          Diana Fayt
 Julia Galloway                                      Don Ellis
 Rob Froese                                  Mariko McCrae
 Debra Sloan                                    Rick Mahaffey
 Carol Gouthro                                        Chic Lotz
Vincent Massey                           Laura McKibbon
Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts (MISSA) is a
non-profit organization dedicated to providing specialized courses for
adult professional artists, serious adult students and teachers.
Find everything you need here.
Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts
650 Pearson College Dr,
Victoria, BC, V9C 4H7, Canada.

Reason number three million and twelve why Mariko Paterson McCrae rocks:

Charity Cups

Give a little, give alot…
Even though we are run off our feet, we at Feedlot Studios
like to give when and where we can. Often times this comes in the form
of donated art and design services for those who need a little
rah-rah-sis-boom bah. Starting today Mariko will be hanging some upcycled cups, mugs and other ceramic oddity from GIRO
(The Gabriola Island Recycling Organization). They’ll be priced at $5
and only one of those clams will be kept to cover some of the material
and firing cost.
a steal you say? Almost…just place the loot (like the plate says) in
the box provided and we’ll get the money into some local non-profit
pockets. See them gems online here.
80o Valli Place
Gabriola Island, BC

Opening this thursday – Mariko McCrae @ the Craft Council of BC

The Life and Times of Abigail Tackle
as told by Mariko McCrae Craft Council of BC Gallery
1386 Cartwright Street, Granville Island
Opening: February 16th 6-8pm
Opened 10:30 – 5:30 daily February 16 – March 29th The Life and times of Abigail Tackle chronicles the artistic dreams and aspirations of a fictitious elderly woman from the Prairies. Gabriola Island ceramist Mariko McCrae merges Abigail’s dreams of one day visiting the oceans wide with her handbuilt ceramic efforts that are often anchored to historical examples. The result is a booty of work lifted from the annals of Christie’s and Sotheby’s auction catalogues that are made to walk the plank of contemporary subversions. Curated by Penny Parry.

Ship Sinkers- Ice Bucket

Read the whole story here. It’s well worth the time, so grab a cup of tea and enjoy!

Monday Morning eye candy – Mariko McCrae

Today’s eye candy even gets a thumbs up from my little guy for the amazing cup that Mariko surprised us with this holiday.

And I couldn’t resist including a pic from a recent group of Zombie Gnomes that she created. So incredibly hilarious!

You know you want to see more so check her out here.