smart textiles - total geek out

So I have this residency in the heart of St. Louis' tech start up corridor.  I am investigating 3d printer use for within my art, but then my brain does what it always does and starts dreaming and scheming.  Have you heard of LED Fairy Lites Thread? Look at these products from


The great part is that the residency comes with a fully loaded Maker Space. I am the proverbial Kid in a Candy Shop.  To read a good review of the many smart textile tech applications, read this article from My initial inspiration came from this post on Instructables.  It is super simple.  I need to try making one and see what else I can do. Instead of a cowl, I am thinking of a hat as that would make me more visible while walking at night with my dogs.

My first foray into Print on demand

“Fashion is a language that creates itself in clothes to interpret reality.” - Karl Lagerfeld

“Fashion is a language that creates itself in clothes to interpret reality.” - Karl Lagerfeld

Last year I received an email from the company to consider using their program to design clothing.  I was intrigued. I've been seeing a plethora of Print on Demand websites and have never tried using them.  Spoonflower is one of the most known in the craft world. You can upload your design and have it printed onto fabric.  So I highlighted that email until I was ready to further investigate. This winter I tried it out and was pleasantly surprised by the ease of using the software and the quality of the final product.  I bought the blouse on the upper left using one of the artist coupons they sent me. The print quality is excellent.  I was startled as I could see my brush strokes.  The graphic elements all originated from gouache paintings from my Micropatterns series.   So yes, you can see my brush marks which I really rather like. The fabric hangs well and the French rolled armholes are well done.  I'm pleased.  I was especially pleased after receiving my first commission check.  I can make money doing this?! Okay, I am hooked.  I am now painting more for this art series and ironically, the other day I posted a snapshot of a work in progress on my Facebook page and a family friend wrote that she had a  silk dress with a similar print. I like this dual role of making. Art and design rolled into one. The painting is inspired by an article from this magazine.

Here are a few more examples.  These are scarves and one of the pillows I designed.

What I love trying out is seeing how the same design looks manipulated onto different garments.  The middle scarf and the top bag are from the same painting, but they look quite different due to to the placement of the design elements and the fabrics texture.

Artist in Residency

The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art. -- John Lasseter

The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art. -- John Lasseter

I have been accepted into a residency program in St. Louis at the CET building in the Cortex Corridor which is the tech startup and biotech center of the city's commerce. There is a maker space in the building, and I will hopefully soon be launching into making that 3d print from my MRI!  I've also wanted for years to add electronics to my textiles, so with a soldering station and lots of coders in the building to help me if I get stuck, I can finally get to experiment with an  Arduino Lily Pad.  

Thank you to the Regional Arts Commission for making this residency possible.


Learn how to maximize your social media time and dollars.  In April, I am launching a series of free online  social media classes for artists and other small business owners. Go to my contact page to sign up for my newsletter to receive the announcement of the first class in your email box. For more watch this short (under 3 min) video.

How Artists Can Find Funds : A book review & interview with Gigi Rosenberg's The Artist's Guide to Grant Writing

In your book, you write that "A proposal is a creative act like any other." Can you expand upon this comment?

Proposal writing takes time away from all the other things you should be doing like making art, marketing, and grocery shopping. For this reason, I encourage my students to ensure they will benefit from the process of writing a proposal or grant application, even if they don’t win. Also, you have to decide if your time would be better spent in the studio or at the writing desk just making more work. When you apply for a grant you usually have to submit a work sample and that sample must be of the highest quality. You only get that quality by putting in the time. Without that work sample, even the most beautifully written application has much less chance of winning funding. 

How does writing a grant benefit you in more ways than money?

What many artists don’t realize is that the panel that judges your grant application is often made up of other artists. So one huge benefit to applying for a grant is that your work, your resume, your artist statement, and your application is studied very closely by other artists, curators, and others in your field. At the end of the process this panel will know more about you, the artist, than your own mother! So, even if you don’t win funding, you now have some new, potentially influential fans who you’ll surely meet further down the road. They can refer you to other projects. When they run into you, they may say: “Yes, I know you and I love your work. Have you heard about…?” You never know what opportunities this exposure can lead to. 

What is fiscal sponsorship? Which organizations in Chicago offer such assistance?  

Fiscal sponsorship is one of those topics that make people glaze over. So I’ll keep this brief, and if it sounds intriguing or helpful, there are whole books written about it! In short: an artist who needs to raise a lot of money for a big project might consider finding a non-profit organization that can act as a fiscal sponsor. What this enables the artist to do is to apply for grants that are only available to non-profits, not individual artists. This may sound vaguely illegal but it is on the up and up. Many funders can only grant money to an individual if that individual is working under the umbrella of a non-profit. Artists may wonder if this sponsor then has any creative control and the answer is absolutely not. When you sign the contract with the sponsor, make sure that’s stipulated in the contract. The best fiscal sponsor is an organization that has experience acting as a fiscal sponsor and working with individual artists. It doesn’t even need to be a Chicago organization. You can start your search with the New York Foundation for the Arts or with Fractured Atlas. Or check

How have you found alternative sources of funding for your own projects?  

Alternative funding sources means money that doesn’t come from a grant. Usually this means raising money from individual donors and yes, I’ve raised money for my own projects by asking my friends and colleagues to donate. I did this by writing a letter to them and asking them to send between $10 and $50 to support my project. It’s a pretty scary process because it makes you feel more vulnerable than writing a grant application but it helps you raise money faster and is usually less work than applying for a grant. I have one whole chapter in the book with literally hundreds of ideas for doing your own fundraising from writing letters to throwing all kinds of fundraising events and parties.

In your book you write about the "elevator speech."  What is an "elevator speech" and how does it strengthen one's grant proposal and benefit an artist's career in general?  

Your elevator speech is the few sentences you will say to someone you’ve just met—say, in an elevator—where you have less than 60 seconds to tell someone who you are and what you do. Most artists have a few different elevator speeches that emphasize different aspects of their work and career, and they’ll use one or the other depending on whom they’re talking to. For example, you’d have one if you were talking to a curator and another one if you were talking to someone interested in hiring you as teacher. You need an elevator speech for the project you’re looking to fund for a few reasons. One of the most important reasons is that when people ask you what you’re up to, you’ll tell them about your new project in a few pithy sentences. You’ll be amazed at how many good ideas others will have for you when they understand what you’re doing and what you’re looking for. You’ll also use your elevator speech if and when you call the granting agency. It quickly conveys to them who you are, what you’re doing, and what you want. 

What is your own "elevator speech" for your book?

I wrote the book The Artists Guide to Grant Writing to empower artists with the tools and strategies to write winning proposals and fundraise for their artists endeavors. 

This excerpt entitled “Hone the Big Idea” explains one of the many advantages of the process of writing a grant, besides the chance to win funding: 

Hone the Big Idea

The grant-writing process is a way to find your own answers to the big questions about your next project. It forces you to ask questions like: Can I do this work? How will this work add to the world of visual art (or of literature, or of performance)? It compels you to articulate not only what kind of art you make but also why and how you make it.

Many artists—even writers—don’t like to explain why they do what they do. They don’t want to dissect the meaning of their art. “Artists don’t like to be nailed down,” said artist Rita Robillard. “With good art we crave indeterminacy, and that seems in conflict with clarity.” Some artists feel that if it can be said in words then what’s the point of making it? The challenge then becomes how to be clear while maintaining the poetry.

Poet Mary Szybist, who won a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) fellowship for her second book of poetry, has a love/hate relationship with being forced to articulate what she’s working toward when she writes. She wonders whether too much explaining takes away from the work. “Poems have to have space to take on lives of their own,” she said. “The danger of articulating what a poem is about is that it could lead to being overdetermined and take the life out of the work.” On the other hand, the process of articulation can be useful. “There can be something very generative about being forced to articulate a theme or an idea,” she said. The process of writing her grant led her to decide on the central motif that shaped and informed her second book.

(Reprinted from the book The Artist's Guide to Grant Writing, by Gigi
Rosenberg. Copyright © 2010 by Gigi Rosenberg. Published by
Watson-Guptill, a division of Random House, Inc.)

Gigi Rosenberg is an author, speaker, coach, and workshop leader. Her essays and articles have been published by Seal Press, The OregonianJewish ReviewParenting, and Writer’s Digest. Her book, The Artist’s Guide to Grant Writing: How to Find Funds and Write Foolproof Proposals for the Visual, Literary, and Performing Artist(Watson-Guptill, December 2010) grew out of her acclaimed professional development workshops launched in Portland, Oregon, and taught at Chicago’s Self Employment in the Arts, New York City’s Foundation Center, and throughout the Pacific Northwest. Today she works in downtown Portland, Oregon, in an historic 1891 building near the urban shore of the Willamette River where she glimpses Mt. Hood from her fifth floor window. From there she writes books and memoir, coaches clients on presentations, and teaches workshops on grant writing to artists. 

This essay was initially written and posted on Chicago Artist's Resource when I was the Visual Arts Researcher.


Err on the Side of Caution: Why I carry Insurance for my Art Business

“The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.”  Auguste Rodin                                        photo by Jasper van der Meij from Unsplash

The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.”  Auguste Rodin                                        photo by Jasper van der Meij from Unsplash

Disasters occur every day: rivers overflow, buildings burn to the ground, earthquakes happen. You think you are immune to them until you find yourself smack-dab in the middle of one.  

In the summer of 2010, after a  heavy rainstorm, the sewers backed up throughout much of Chicago where I was living at the time. Four inches of soupy brown water with bits of this and that sprinkled throughout filled my studio. As the water subsided, a toxic sludge remained, and a few days later, I found mold growing up one wall.  

I wanted to scream, rant, cry, run away, but instead I called my insurance agents. Yes, agents. I carry coverage on my home and a separate business policy on my studio,  located in my basement. Isn’t that overkill? No. My homeowner’s policy doesn’t cover the liability of visitors to my studio, and it certainly doesn’t cover my art and all my equipment.    

I was lucky. The damage could have been far more extensive. Some homes were reported to have over five feet of sewage in their basements. The federal government became involved and called in FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency).

An agent from my business insurance company visited my studio within a week of my call, documented the damage, and then guaranteed that any art inventory damaged would be covered for the full wholesale amount. What a relief! Not only that, the insurance company would pay out for interruption of business. In other words, as my studio was no longer functional, the insurance company would pay the rent for me to work in a temporary space until the repairs to my studio were completed.

My home insurance policy covered the rest of the damage, including the removal of toxic sodden drywall, cleanup of the mold, and all subsequent repairs to my basement. Without sewer backup coverage, I’d be like my neighbors—still waiting for funding from FEMA.

I don’t like paying for insurance, but I consider it a necessary expense. As an artist, I’ve experienced my art being stolen, damaged by careless curators, and lost in transit. My work often takes several months per piece to make. If it ends up damaged, lost or stolen, I need some financial compensation.

When I began to exhibit more extensively, I added a marine policy to my business coverage. It proved less expensive over the course of a year than paying the insurance coverage provided by shippers. The bonus is that it not only covers my work in transit, it also covers it at other sites, such as alternative galleries that may not have coverage.  

In 1989, a horrific fire burned down the Brunswick Balke-Collender building in the River North gallery district of  Chicago. With it went 25 galleries and $50 million dollars worth of work. Some galleries, such as Zolla-Lieberman, relocated. Others closed permanently. When it happened, I was a young artist recently out of school, and the disaster made a huge impression on me. It was then I decided to err on the side of caution and get insurance. My recent experience proves once again that I made a good decision.

This essay was first written and published on Chicago Artists Resource.

Inventory and The Dry Bits of Art Making

"The inventory process and stepping back in your life can sometimes be a very dark process. But it also can be extremely funny and surprising. " -- by Craig Charles photo from Unsplash by All Bong.  

"The inventory process and stepping back in your life can sometimes be a very dark process. But it also can be extremely funny and surprising. " -- by Craig Charles photo from Unsplash by All Bong.  

I think every artist will tell you that there is at least one aspect of their business that they detest.  My two bugaboos are shipping and managing inventory.  Inventory is just tedious.  I have everything cataloged on Excel, but the system isn't' robust enough for me.  I need to easily add images and be able to keep track of which organization I've promised which work for which time?  I tried out Gyst (Get Your Shit Together) a few years ago and believe I need to retry it. I liked it at the time, but I was feeling lazy and gave up on all the data entry required.

Why is this becoming so important to me now????  Well, in the last three years, I've moved to another city and then had a stroke which seriously affected my short term memory.  I have work that didn't survive the move or has just simply gone missing.  I need to take it out of inventory.  And as I start showing more again, I need to know who I've promised what work to exhibit.  I used to keep all that data in my head and as a fool, I keep thinking I can still rely upon my brain.  So, a robust data system is required.  Gyst is now an all-encompassing artist software system which has everything I need in one tidy place.  My New Year's resolution is to get organized. This will do it.  And building a new storage unit in my home with everything clearly labeled is another plus in my favor.

My New Work Motto

After decades of stitching often on works that took months to complete, I decided it was time to Work Smarter, not Harder. I have found that small works are just as satisfying.  I can work on small works and build them up to one large work, so as a collection is shown, it grows and changes from venue to venue which I find rather exciting.

Medicine Man, 2015 and ongoing, beaded prescription bottles, photo Larry Sanders. 

Medicine Man, 2015 and ongoing, beaded prescription bottles, photo Larry Sanders. 

Medicine Man is one of those collections.  Every month I take an assortment of prescriptions. Rather than see this endless stream of plastic bottles end up in a landfill, I decided to save them to make into art. Each bottle takes about 3 days to make, so at a couple of hours a day, around 6-8 hours to complete one which isn't so long by my standards.

Working Smarter, Not Harder means creating obtainable goals and then exploring other mediums.  I am working to better understand the technology behind 3d printing, but ultimately I am a craftsman, so I like to have my hand directly involved.  Not sure where I am going with this. Of course, I am still painting a series of gouaches to push the ideas out, so I think I will soon start quilting or working in glass, a medium I have long loved, but never took the time to master. Time will tell.


Yes, one day I will be able to hold my brain....

I can't begin to tell you how excited I am.  I am completely geeking out.  As one who has always loved looking at our inner world, the world that lurks below the skin and only visible with a microscope or some high-end medical technology.  When I had a stroke two years ago, I couldn't resist asking for a copy of my MRI.  It took me a long time to recover to the point that I could emotionally make art using imagery from my body.  I mean really, how many times do you get to see your brain, the driver box, the center of YOU?!  Golden opportunity for an artist, right?!

The odd thing looking at this image is that I can recognize my silhouette taken from the back of my head.  Whoever sat behind me in high school could probably confirm it. You can see my brain from the back end.  It looks huge against my wobbly, skinny neck.  

And then look at this image.  Aren't the eyeballs amazing?! They look like glowing marbles in the image.  You can see how everything connects. 


I have not posted images showing the location of my stroke. I don't want you to focus on the damage, and there was considerable damage, I want you to focus on the miracle of the human body in all its complexity.  There are over 100 BILLION cells in the human brain.  No one has actually counted them and the number hasn't been supported by a peer-reviewed study, but it gives you a sense of the assumed enormity.(For more on this subject.) What strikes me as nearly as incredible is that we can even see the brain.  We are no longer limited to dissections to see inside the human body or dependent on the flat images of an x-ray.  The MRI (magnetic resonance image) makes a detailed image in such detail, that you can get a sort of three-dimensional view of the brain.  

I am geeking out as I have found several students at Washington University who are willing to collaborate with me on attempting to translate the images into code that could be used on a 3D printer to see if we can make a 3D print of my brain.  Imagine being able to hold a replica of your actual brain?! This project will require me first to learn how to operate a 3d printer.  I am hoping classes at the St. Louis Tech Shop will facilitate that hurdle and that the students can do the heavy lifting with the coding. I haven't done anything more than HTML since high school, so I am a little rusty.  A science, engineering, art collaboration!

One last thing, if you are a neurologist,  doctor of medicine or med student looking at these images, please be respectful.  I don't want to hear what you think you may see in them.  I don't need the unnecessary anxiety. I am healthy.  Sharing personal medical information is always a bit risky, but it is the only way to share with you what I am attempting to do.  And to keep from bursting with all my excitement.

ArtPrize 8

All photos taken by Larry Sanders.  Work dates from 2009 - 2016.

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see. Edgar Degas

ArtPrize 8 will mark my third time participating in this international competition.  I will be exhibiting work built over the past 4 years.  Mikros is my visualization of what I tend to think of as the good guys vs the bad guys.  How is it that something as microscopic as pollen can cause so much misery on a seasonal basis? And what is with those leucocytes / white blood cells. One day they are attacking and fighting off influenza and the next day they become a rogue army attacking my joints, in a disease known as rheumatoid arthritis.  It frustrates and yet fascinates me that I'm am controlled by the microscopic.  

My work will be in a group show at Western Michigan University- Grand Rapids.  It will open on 9/21, but close 10/21, several weeks after the rest of ArtPrize closes.   

Western Michigan University - Grand Rapids
200 Ionia Ave SW,
Grand Rapids, MI 49503