NOW CURATING: YOMI
s t r e e t a r t i s t
Maybe you’ve seen someone around Philly wearing a cool wooden or granite watch. Chances are it was made by Analog Watch Company. When I first met founder Lorenzo Buffa he was working as a barista and perfecting a Kickstarter campaign based on his art school design project. He made $73,000. Now he has a storefront in South Philly, his watches are sold in museums around the world, and he’s been on TV and stuff. You should listen to his advice for artists—and buy one of his watches.
– Christopher Munden, curator
In 2013 I turned my art school thesis project into a start up brand called Analog Watch Co. Bridging the gap between creative and strategic has taken some time, but ultimately proved to be a crucial element in achieving success.
While the business side isn’t as interesting as the creative or design work, it’s become a new arena that separates the starving artist from the successful artist. Here are some tips that may help you grow your creative business.
1. Do the work you like—but also do the work you don’t like. You have to be willing to learn a new skill even if you find it boring. I still dislike using Excel, but once I got over that hump, I am now able to compile real information and data that in turn helps me understand where my business is, where it wants to go, and how much time and effort it may take to get to the next milestone. If you think something will take you 2 weeks, and do the smart thing and buffer for 4 weeks, it will actually take you 6 weeks. Always be flexible.
2. Be kind and modest, and accept help wherever it is offered. I have had to rely on countless friends and mentors not only for emotional support or a listening ear, but also to directly grow my business. for actions that resulted in business growth. Remaining modest has made it easy to find friends or friends of friends who are interested in helping and supporting a vision, whether they be a photographer to shoot some content, a web designer to help tweak some code, or someone to facilitate a connection to city government. If you are genuine others will see this, and the resources and people you need will slowly but surely make themselves visible.
3. Fake it till you make it. My mother always said this adage to me and for years folks used to laugh at me for simplifying the complex world of business into a one-liner. If you want to be a company, talk as a company. Drop “I” and replace it with “we,” even if “we” is still just you. If you think your company is too small to be doing something, you are probably wrong. It’s probably time for you to start looking into taking that next level of action.
4. Emulate those you admire. If you want to present like Steve Jobs, you need to watch his videos, take notes, then imagine you are him at your next speech or presentation. Follow what works. Pay attention to what doesn’t. You should know your market better than anyone else, which also means you are attuned to what is and is not working within your industry. Find what suits you, borrow from it, and make the changes that fit your business so you can make them your own.
5. Always prepare for growth. One day we received an email asking for our line sheet and wholesale prices. While we had not created those documents or terms yet, I had saved a few I found online many months back that I was able to reference. This subtle preparation allowed us to somewhat quickly put together an appropriate wholesale document. Our first version lost us some customers, so we asked around and learned from the mistakes. Now we have purchase terms that not only work well for us but that also engage retailers.
6. Entrepreneurship is all about risk mitigation and management. When starting a business you will find you are constantly in a position of making decisions. Do I order 50 or do I order 500? You need to ask yourself what the safest, least risky method is for you. If you order 50 and sell out right away, will it set you back two months as you wait for more inventory? If you order 500 and it turns out the item is not popular, are you now sitting on a ton of wasted inventory? Do you need to create “tests” so you can measure if something is a worthwhile expenditure? In our case, we used Kickstarter as a platform to test the market we wanted to enter.
7. Stretch your money. Pay yourself only after you’ve put the money in the right places for your business. If you weigh the risks properly and keep on building your sweat equity, you’ll have the cash you need to cover those unexpected costs.
8. Don’t be intimidated. It’s easy to beat yourself up when you realize maybe your math skills or business skills are rusty. You may compare yourself to other successful endeavors and find it hard to imagine you making it there yourself. Stop that now and re-read #4 and #5 above. You have a creative brain and just maybe that is what will set you apart from the rest.
To see material proof of the validity of these tips, check out Analog’s website or their storefront at 1737 E Passyunk.
Evalina “Wally” Carbonell is a powerhouse of a dancer and choreographer. Although she performs most often as a member of Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers, I have come to know her better through her own work; a homogenized blend of technical dynamism and deep, rich sensitivity. She’s also one of the weirder people I’ve met during my time in the Philadelphia dance scene, often conversing with rapt fanaticism and prone to fierce hotheadedness. (One of my favorite rants of hers was a tirade against a male dance critic who called her work “quirky,” damning it as the equivalent of a cute pat on the head for female artists.) Wally has a beautiful artistic mind and a beautiful explosiveness to her thoughts, and I was eager for her to have a platform with which to share them.
-Kat Sullivan, curator
1) Transform instinct into intention.
In dance, we are constantly in touch with our inherent physical instincts. Additionally, we are tasked with expressing ourselves in a way that is poignant and affecting. Society tells us that while children move and create from an instinctual place, “mature adults” learn to make conscious, informed choices. As mature artists, we must combine these capacities. We must stay in touch with our animal instincts and, at the same time, be capable of identifying and honoring the intention that is revealed through the creation of each dance.
2) Explore the opposites.
Our understanding of the world relies on contrast. We can only appreciate good through exposure to evil. As dance artists, we can create the most effective art not only by defining the subject matter, but also by identifying the things that subject does not illuminate. In order to elicit an emotional and physical response from a viewer, the dance must be visible; for maximum visibility, contrast is required.
3) Converse with your work.
Through the creation process, we give birth to another entity. While the dance stems from us, it is also a force distinct from us. A painting is made by the painter, but it is not “the painter”; however, a dance is intertwined with “the dancer” since it is both made and transmitted through the human body. The choreographic process is a conversation between the creator and/or dancer and the dance. We must allow the dance to speak to us, and not only inflict ourselves upon it.
4) Shock your process.
While we may choose to focus on one idea for several dances, they are not all the same dance. Each creation has a beginning and an end. In order to continue growing, we must continue to create new, distinct works. Breaking our creative habits can be challenging. One effective way to shock the process is to alter the timeline for creative incubation. By challenging ourselves to create work more quickly, or over a longer time period, than is our habit, we discover new sides of ourselves in the process. Through experiencing this “shock,” we may be inspired to explore other ways of altering the incubation process, thus developing works which may not otherwise have come to fruition.
5) Distill, expound, repeat.
In the creative process, ideas often flood the creator. At other times, the creator becomes fixated on one movement. When stuck in a creative lurch, this simple mantra, “distill, expound, repeat,” can give us the appropriate push. Identifying on which end of the spectrum we exist at a given moment will make it clear which verb we are to follow. If an idea seems too scattered, we must distill. If it is more mysterious than we had in mind or we crave more of the same, we must expound. Then, we repeat until it feels complete. Of course we may not always need all three words, and we can always mix up the order to suit the situation.
6) Be a sponge and a faucet.
Creativity requires an open mind. As dance artists, we must be both student and teacher, cultivating both the ego and a sense of humbleness. We must give and receive, constantly and actively.
7) Put it in your pocket.
Artists require tools. As dancers, we have space, time, the physical body, the emotional body, and the energetic body. We also have a whole world of influences and a lifetime of experiences with which to fill our pockets. By consciously collecting ideas, images, sensations, and rhythms, we percolate an endless supply of creative juice.
8) Styling is everything.
Dance is a complete sensory experience. A painting may be beautiful, but poor lighting, framing, and atmosphere can undeniably detract from its full potential glory. Dance is no different. We must strive to allow each presentation to fulfill its potential. This is not purely about budget. It is about taste, creative problem solving, and honesty with ourselves and our collaborators.
Photo credit: The Ripening Suite, choreography by Evalina “Wally” Carbonell, photo by Bill Hebert.
Eamon is a Philly cartoonist born and bred who draws his best cartoons in bars. He is also a podcaster on the Highlander Rewatched podcast. I became familiar with his work at a show put on by Philadelphia artist collective, Phantom Hand, and have been a fan ever since. His comics are witty and intelligent, much like the man himself. I approached Eamon about illustrating a Tip Jar piece because I admire his work and genuinely wanted to get some of his advice on how to be wildly successful as an artist! Luckily he’s sharing it with all of us. Thanks Eamon! Here are some more ways to see his work: Instagram & Twitter @eamonbdoc / Tumblr eamondoc.tublr.com
-Kelly Kozma, curator
Lauren Dombrowiak is a installation artist working mainly in ceramics and wood. She has an Masters in Fine Art from Tyler School of Art, Temple University. And has been featured at the Philadelphia International Airpot and most recently the Philadelphia Art Alliance. In the gallery she transforms functional objects into large sculptural objects that then creates an un-functional space. While in her career using mainly wood she creates visually dynamic spaces solely for the use of function in a retail environment. In either role the transformation of common objects to create interesting spaces is her passion.
Jessie Hemmons, curator
I make things out of wood for a living. It is a dusty job but I find it really rewarding to take a raw piece of lumber and transform it into something functional or cool to have in your home. This is a small sample of helpful hints mostly for the more novice woodworker, but hopefully anyone can find something useful in these basic tips.
Tools of the Trade
If you are a novice maker of things out of wood, there are a few tools that are a must.
Plan your project
Planning your project can really cut the time it takes to make it. You can go as extreme as using a 3D modeling tool to draw it, or simply just use a paper and pencil. When planning, try and draw it to scale, it then becomes easy to make a cut list (literally a list of all the pieces you will cut to make your project.) Think of it like IKEA furniture with the addition of making the wood parts too. If you plan these out it can help determine your sheet yield,which can cut your cost. Another helpful tip is to plan the project from start to finish; do you need a special blade or tool? How are you going to assemble it? Do you need wood glue? What size screws should you use? Are you painting it? This way when you make a hardware store trip you only have to take one.
Don’t trust the factory edge
When it’s time to start cutting we all know the old adage measure twice, cut once, (this is true) but first cut off the factory edge when possible. Meaning if you are cutting a section of 2×4 first cut off a little bit from the end and then measure your length and make your second cut. This may seem silly but often the ends from the factory are cut crooked or have been beat up or become cracked in transit. So for tight joinery cutting off the factory edge of sheet goods or dimensional lumber makes for a cleaner joint. There is also an added bonus, because when they manufacture sheet goods they often spray paint the sides of the pallet, when you cut off the edge, there can be less sanding, and everyone loves less sanding!
A cut guide or jig is your friend
Don’t be afraid to use a cut guide or make a jig. I don’t mean draw a straight line and try to follow it as close as you can with the saw. I mean, measure out the distance from your blade to the outside edge of the plate that surrounds your saw and add or subtract that amount to the cut you are making (often on a circular saw it is 1 ½” difference.) Then measure the piece including that measurement (ex: your making a 24″ cut 24′-1 ½’= 22 ½”) so measure 22 ½” from the edge, and clap a straight edge. Then run your saw along the cut guide pushing through the end of the board. You will get a much straighter line and avoid kickback if you are using a cut guide.
Make your project super flossy
“A buck of putty and a gallon of paint will make a carpenter what he ain’t” (this is true). Just add sanding in that phrase, because a lot of flaws can be saved with some wood putty and a fair amount of sanding (if you’re up for another tool, an orbital sander is a great buy). For the more advanced woodworker, a flush trim bit for your router can fix imperfect seams. It’s fine if you don’t know what that last sentence means; it is just a fancy bit for a specialty tool.
When applying putty to your project fill all the flaws, including the flaws in your lumber, with wood putty. Sanding the snot out of it, starting with coarse grit and moving to a finer grit sandpaper, can really polish any project. Finally, just remember that an expert at anything was once a beginner. Continuing to make things is the only way you get better. Happy Building!
Team Sunshine Performance Corporation call themselves “An Unstoppable Force for Good.” Comprised of Benjamin Camp, Alex Torra, and Makoto Hirano, their super playful persona overlays a serious and thoughtful approach to theater work. Nick Stuccio chose to curate them for this week of content, in part, because every work they create contains a public practice component; the audience is uniquely present in every plan they make. Here they drop a juicy slice of wisdom in our laps: how to run a friendly and effective administrative meeting.
-Julius Ferraro, co-founder
Like snowflakes or fingerprints, every company runs administrative meetings their own way. Whether intentional or not, those meetings become a reflection of the company’s values. We try to bring thoughtfulness to the way we accomplish our work, artistic and administrative. Our meetings are no different, and have been iteratively designed over the years we’ve been working together, evolving with the company’s needs. At this point, they’re designed to keep us in communication, which makes a huge difference in the long term prospect of not killing each other.
We’ve learned from a few sources—other arts companies we’ve worked with, jobs at restaurants and colleges, and also from the style of Quaker business meetings. We’ve settled on meeting once per week. Less than that was never enough.
Each meeting has a clerk, a position that can rotate, but doesn’t have to. For us, the clerk serves as the convener of the meeting, the timekeeper, and the person who moves us through the agenda. By being explicit about this role, we remove the pressure and guilt from the process of getting off track and back on. The clerk doesn’t take notes either, so they can focus on the flow of the meeting.
Our meetings follow this format:
1. Confirm the agenda.
We use a single document for our agenda that everyone has access to. That way, if something comes up during the week it can be added easily, and we can refer to previous agendas to see what might have gotten pushed. Clarifying and confirming the agenda helps us realize what the highest priorities are, helps us see if there’s anything missing, and gives us a sense of what we need to decide before we leave.
2. Moment of Silence.
Before we start the meeting proper, we give a moment of stillness and silence. It serves as a buffer between the rhythm of living your life and the more collaborative rhythm of the meeting, and reminds us that we are all present and together. A deep breath, before the work begins.
3. What’s News?
You know how everyone just likes to catch up a little before meetings start (and sometimes during)? We stopped fighting it. We take turns letting the others know what’s going on in our lives. This might be one of the most important things we’ve discovered in the last couple years.
When we don’t have meetings, our work suffers, and it isn’t because we’re not talking about the work—it’s because the connection frays, and communication gets harder. This sharing never feels like we’re wasting time, although it can be hard to end it and move on.
4. Projects, Events, Development, Other
We list out each of our projects on every agenda, even if there are no items. They stay in our consciousness that way. Each meeting addresses Development, and we write in the upcoming deadlines. Anything we can do to stay in front of those deadlines helps.
5. “For Newsfeed”, and “For Next Meeting”
We end our meetings by noting interesting things that could go up on our website, and writing down the items that we didn’t get to or that will be more relevant next time.
6. Closing Silence
In can sometimes be hard to tell when a meeting really ends. By taking another breath—of gratitude, of relief, of readiness, whatever you like—we wrap up the logistical and emotional components of collaborating. Then someone pays for the coffee, and we go off into the world.
By structuring our meetings this way, we maintain our friendships while making space for efficient decision making. By being clear about roles and rhythm for something as commonplace as an administrative meeting, stress goes down and joy goes up. If we’re still a company in 40 years, it will be partially because of the art, and partially because we look forward to working together, even in administrative meetings.
Photo by Elena Camp
Lynn Levin does a lot of things. Levin is a poet, writer, and translator, is adjunct associate professor of English at Drexel and lecturer in creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania. She is, with Valerie Fox, co-author of the craft-of-poetry textbook, Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets (Texture Press, 2013), a finalist in education/academic books in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Levin’s other recent books include Birds on the Kiswar Tree (2Leaf Press, 2014), a translation from the Spanish of a collection of poems by the Peruvian Andean poet Odi Gonzales, and the poetry collection Miss Plastique (Ragged Sky Press, 2013), a finalist in poetry in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Lynn Levin has received eleven Pushcart Prize nominations. Her poems, stories, essays, and translations have appeared in Ploughshares, Boulevard, The Hopkins Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, E-Verse Radio, Verse Daily, and Garrison Keillor has read her work on his radio show The Writer’s Almanac.
—Amanda V. Wagner, co-founder
Poetry is not a big tent. It is an encampment with lots of little tents in which souls select their own societies. If Emily Dickinson went camping (not likely), she would probably not share a tent with Anne Sexton. But after a hard day of walking in the woods and making poems, I can see the two of them sitting around the campfire relaxing, talking po-biz, looking for shooting stars. Poets who pitch different kinds of poetry tents can be friends, but one does stand by the tenets of one’s own tent.
Here are some tips about what I love best in poetry. I present them with examples from some poets I admire, poets who write emotionally clear, witty, accessible poems that convey love and sympathy for the world.
1. Describe generously
Our world will vanish, therefore imagery, either through straight description or figurative language, is essential. Mark Doty’s poem “A Display of Mackerel” from his book Atlantis never fails to dazzle me with its rapturous descriptions of fish in a market.
They lie in parallel rows,
on ice, head to tail,
each a foot of luminosity
barred with black bands,
which divide the scales’
like seams of lead
in a Tiffany window.
prismatics: think abalone,
the wildly rainbowed
mirror of a soapbubble sphere,
think sun on gasoline.
The poem scintillates with its subject. When you read the whole poem, be sure to catch the brilliant irony: as much as Doty presences the material and the now, he meditates platonically on the idea that there is a truer form of mackerel in “heaven’s template.” Doty expands on his devotion to imagery in the essay “Souls on Ice,” which includes the complete text of “A Display of Mackerel.”
2. Surprise your reader
As a reader, I yearn for the moment in which a startling turn of thought, a comparison, a profound observation slides into a poem. I want to feel that moment of awe, that shiver before a truth I did not see coming.
Surprises can be fierce or gentle. In her poem “Olives,” from her collection Olives , A. E. Stallings slips in a gentle surprise. Her poem begins with a gourmet appreciation of olives, but very quickly the poem turns unexpectedly melancholy:
Sometimes a craving comes for salt, not sweet,
For fruits that you can eat
Only if pickled in a vat of tears—
Stallings chooses the sorrowful “vat of tears” to express the brining. It made me wonder what troubled the speaker’s heart. The diction in the poem also delivers the unexpected. Stallings combines everyday words with seldom-seen terms, always precisely relevant to olives, such as “indehiscent” and “drupes.” The poem surprises line after gorgeous line, and at points it shifts from darkness to light: “The nets spread under silver trees that foil/The blue glass of the heavens in the fall.” And I am struck by the poet’s subtle slant rhyming of “foil” with “fall.” From the diction to the sound effects to the constantly changing emotional and sensory perspectives, Stallings gives me something to gasp about in every line. You can find the whole text of the poem in The New Criterion here.
3. Take a stand without ranting
A poem should be brave enough to take on a political subject, but it should not hector the reader. In her collection Doll, Kim Bridgford uses an inflatable doll as a persona to symbolize women who have been silenced or intimated by sexist partners and a sexist society. Here are a few lines from her sonnet, “Inflatable Doll as Driving Companion”:
No backseat driver, this one’s in the front:
Her upbeat plastic buckled in to go
Wherever you go. This blow-up doll is silent,
Offers her support. I sit; therefore I know.
Bridgford’s wit, formal grace, and her sympathetic and subtly sharp approach empower this poem. You can read the whole poem here.
4. Be funny
I love having fun with dark subjects, and that’s what successful funny poems usually do. They deploy humor to beckon the reader only to slide or pounce into something grave or existentially large. Charles Harper Webb’s poem “Nostalgia’s Not What It Used to Be” from his book What Things Are Made Of, ruminates on an ice cream truck, a fond memory of youth, seen by the speaker hilariously through the lens of social and political critique. The poem begins:
I’m well aware it’s problematic to miss the ice cream trucks
that clinked and tinkled down Candlelight Lane. The name
“Good Humor” privileged bourgeois affability, and valorized
consumption. Songs the trucks played—“Daisy, Daisy”
and “Dixie”—legitimized patriarchy, women’s oppression,
and the Mariana Trench of slavery.
Eventually, the poem travels to an incident in the speaker’s youth involving class distinctions, and then rockets out to a pessimistic view of the future, thus bringing not-so-delightful past in conjunction with fraught future. But there’s so much fun in between. You can read the all of Webb’s poem here.
5. If you can write a happy poem, do it
Mostly you will be pondering lost love, illness, guilt, failure, violence, hurt, and all the other things that flesh and spirit are heir to. The Polish poet Anna Swir wrote about all those things, but here she takes a moment to sample joy.
Happy as a Dog’s Tail
Happy as something unimportant
and free as a thing unimportant.
As something no one prizes
and which does not prize itself.
As something mocked by all
and which mocks at their mockery.
As laughter without serious reason.
As a yell able to outyell itself.
Happy as no matter what,
as any no matter what.
as a dog’s tail.
Now and then, let your verse celebrate simple pleasant things. Swir’s poem appears in her collection Talking to My Body, translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan. You can also read Swir’s poem on the Poetry Foundation website.
Avoid dense brush, swamp land, and other hazards around the poetry encampment
The five tips above spotlight some of what I value in poetry, but I want to point out what I don’t like as well. I do not care for self-consciously academic poems, abstruse poems that prize difficulty, poems with subjective associations I cannot follow, or syntactical weirdness that seems downright ungrammatical. Boring poems, I can’t tolerate them either.
All that said, I know that other poets and readers might find fascinating a text that I consider a flatliner or might dig the challenge of a hermetic poem. I reserve my right to be opinionated. I stand by the aspects of poetry that I revere because I think they help poetry do its job, which is to enlarge our world and abide with us in the wilderness of time.
Image by Margaret Kearney
Writers and those who are forced to take a writing course at some point have heard similar tips for success. Tips like, “Don’t use clichés and trite language,” when any magazine you open abuses overused idioms and god-awful puns. As a writer, I’ve composed my own list of rules that have guided me through my career. Coupled with my habit of compulsive doodling here are my writing tips.
1. Be a Writer Even When Someone Tells You Not To Be
Someone will undoubtedly tell you not to be a writer. That person can be your mom, your cousin, your bartender, or whoever. For me, my boss (in a publishing department mind you) told me not to pursue a career in writing. As a person just starting her career, this was a message that re-focused my romantic views. Yes, having a career as a writer is difficult, but fuck it. EVERYTHING YOU WANT TO DO IS DIFFICULT.
2. Read a Lot!
Read on the train, during work hours when you are bored, before bed (even if it’s not great for your eyes), and when you wake up. Read when you are high, when you are drunk, and when you are high and drunk. Read when you hate your parents, when your partner broke up with you, and when you having a one-night stand. Just read!
3. Defend a Logical Argument; Not Just Your Opinion
Very few people care about your opinion. Opinions are unreliable, and are informed by perspective and experience. Constructing a logical argument based on facts and surveyed opinions is key. Communicating a message efficiently, and defending a thesis, involves posing a well-rounded argument.
4. Some Edits Deserve Push Back
Your name is in the byline. Do not let anyone strip something you think is integral to a piece out of it. There are times where you have to let your darlings die, but there are also occasions where you have to come to your own defence. Again, this is your piece if there is an edit that you wholeheartedly believe adds irreplaceable value to your piece, fight for it. BUT (and this is a big but) knowing your limits, and fully understanding what is and isn’t pertinent to your work, takes a ton of time and a few heartbreaks.
5. It’s Okay to Read the Comment Section, but Always Overlook Trolls!
I cannot tell you how many times I have been verbally attacked in comments on online articles. I’ve been accused and abused, but after your first cry you realize that it is a choice. I know writers who avoid the comment section all together, however mining for questions and constructive commentary is important. Go ahead and interact with your audience. Just know that if a comment starts with name-calling, you should roll your eyes and scroll down.
6. Don’t Mimic Your Heroes (doodle misspell) For too Long. Find. Your. Own. Voice.
It’s okay to go through a Hemingway phase and write in brief direct and unembellished sentences, but please get over it. You are not going to be Hemingway, thankfully. Find your own voice.
7. It Is Okay to Befriend the People You Interview After Publishing Them.
After an interview I would feel conflicted. The interaction seemed short and artificial. We were there for a purpose. I wanted my questions answered, and they wanted me not to misrepresent them. My approach, to bring comfort to both parties, was to befriend my interviewee. Often this method resulted in actual friendships. I felt overwhelmingly guilty about befriending those I interviewed. “As a journalist you are supposed to be calculative and exact, not friendly and approachable,” I thought to myself. In time I understood that it was beneficial to forge friendships.
8. Avoid Using the Word “Unique”
Just don’t. Urgh.