Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Public Art Program in the City of Calgary, Elections, Budgets, Firehalls and Memory

Project: Indiegogo catch-up
Mood: Positive
Media: 1000 Miles Apart Ceramic Conference (all the presentations and demonstrations are going through my head still - Sean O'Connell - Ryan McKerley - Steven Gorman - Michael Flaherty)

I don't usually comment on local politics during an election but I have been seeing a lot of mis-information going about lately concerning the City of Calgary Public Art Program and the "waste of money" being blamed on the current municipal government. 

Basically the City Council has nothing to to with public art, its the Recreation department that administers the program, which was created two mayors ago (Al Duerr) and updated by the last mayor (Dave Bronconnier). Personally, I have not been happy with many of their choices of art, nor with the fact that many of the artists chosen are from outside of Calgary, and Canada sometimes. Blaming Mayor Nenshi and the current Council for this is wrong. Also raving about the "crazy money being spent" is similarly wrong. 

Any upgrade or construction of a government facility, with a budget over $1 million, has to set aside 1% for a public art component, meaning yes, they spent $150,000 on that giant sculpture/painting/thing that took lots of people months to build (probably at a very low wage and high material cost) but they also spent $14,850,000 upgrading/building the facility. Creating artwork is a JOB too!!!

Everyone thinks that the artist just got $150,000 and they are cheating everyone, if you really think that, just un-friend me now. Average material cost on a $150k project runs about 30-40%, another 40-50% paying for labour costs (yes, the artist really built that 30 ft sculpture all by themselves and the engineer/architect worked for free *sarcasm*), add 15% for space/equipment rental to build said 30 ft sculpture (can't build it in the garage or the basement with a hammer and a drill), leaving 5% (maybe) for the artist (if nothing went wrong - something always goes wrong). I know artists that have gone over-budget and out of pocket to complete public art at their expense rather than present a bad piece of work to the public. 

As some of the firehalls in town are being renovated too, they will be getting some public art as well, I've seen some of the concept images for them and I seriously hope they come out a lot nicer than they look. Speaking as both an artist and a former firefighter, I'm not impressed, then again its my own artistic sensibilities reacting. BUT when I hear that people are raging that firefighters need equipment, not art, I must strongly object. Today there is budget for equipment, personnel and facilities, there wasn't back when I did the job, 9-11 took care of that. Before 9-11 firefighters got very little from the city, one alderman even proposed that firefighters starting picking up residential garbage between fire calls rather than "sitting around doing nothing". Many fire departments were considered a money drain and budgets were cut ruthlessly, with no concern for the safety of the firefighters.

What firefighters really need are for you to get out of the way when you hear sirens, help when asked and stay put when told to do so. They are trying to save people and property, its their job, if you aren't helping, then you are in the way. 

I remember many a time, after a bad call just sitting, eyes closed picturing anything than what I just had to go through, art would help, when I got back home I usually went straight to my studio and made something. Just as many times I went home and just hung out with my son, life is precious.

Art is a creative act, looking at art is a positive process. I would've rather been losing myself in a sculpture or painting after a fire call than picturing that last hour cleaning up at a car crash, thinking of the destruction of that building fire or forest fire, the body removals, scrubbing someones blood stains from my turnout coat, picturing that family that I knew before the fire and after we found the bodies. I deal with those memories and hundreds more, I try to overlay the bad with the good . . . I try. My years as a firefighter are in the past, but the memories are ever present, good and bad.

TVFD 1995 Training Session with  BDFD

To sum up, Artists need to eat too (pay bills/rent, feed their kids) and Firefighters need art. Please educate yourselves and others, its worth it. I am a professional artist and a proponent of local arts, if you have any problems with, or praise for, the Calgary Public Art Program please direct them HERE and leave it out of the electoral process, vote with your brain.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

90 days on the Roller Coaster

Project: Playing Catch-up (after eye surgery, plus moving my house and two businesses)
Mood: Optimistic (despite the surgery, having to suddenly move, 80% drop in customer sales due to the Calgary floods and the wheel falling off my truck)
Media: Podcast-A-Palooza (while organizing the house and businesses) - The Nerdist, Hollywood Babble-On, Girl on Guy, WTF & Geek Shall Inherit

This is my life over the last three months, the screwed up thing is that more than this happened, this is just the surface.

June 1st-ish - My Indiegogo campaign for my eye surgery has been so successful that I have been in my studio producing as fast as I can for days on end. My eyesight is deteriorating quicker because of the extra workload. I have 85 mugs to make, 5 cookie jars and almost 300 pendants. I can finish 1 mug a day, maybe a few pendants

June 7th - A week before the surgery, my eyes shut down. The blinding migraines keep me out of the studio. A "For Sale" sign appears on my front lawn, my landlord decides to sell the house rather than fix the washing machine which has not worked for 8 months. I've been here six years, I don't want to leave. A stream of prospective house buyers begins filing through.

June 13th - Laser eye surgery is weird, uncomfortable, but tolerable, until the laser starts burning the cornea. The smell reminds me of being in a burning building about 15 years ago when I was on the Turner Valley Fire Department, burning human is a smell that you don't forget. As I'm freaking out on the inside I remain perfectly still and quiet. The laser portion is done, now the cross-linking ensues, 15 quiet minutes of riboflavin drops and ultraviolet light. 30 minutes later my son picks me up, drives me home. Everything is dark and blurry.

3 types of eye drops 4 times a day - more blurring as the healing process begins - cornea scabbing, fun.

June 21st - Calgary floods, at certain points my neighborhood is surrounded by water and cut-off from the rest of the city. We are lucky and safe, the fallout comes later. The world is still a dark and blurry place, can't work in the studio, can't drive, at least no more migraines. My son drives me about, cooks meals, takes care of me . . . he's my hero.

June 26th - My landlord sells the house, I'm given 90 days to move my home, ceramic studio and my side business with my son. I start house-hunting with all the 1000's permanently displaced by the flood. Houses normally renting in the $1500 range are going for $2500. My eyes are well enough to do a little work in the studio.

July 1st - I start working again in my studio, there is a Market Collective show in three weeks and since the flood we have had no sales at all from the ceramic studio and only a couple of sales in my side business. I go back and forth day to day between working on regular studio stock and Indiegogo items.

July 10th - My production speed is up by a factor of three, no more blinding headaches and I don't even have my new glasses yet. My son has to remind me that its past 10 pm a few nights in a row, I enjoy working again. Unfortunately regular sales are down by about 90%. The portion of the  Indiegogo budget to supplement rent and bill payment that was supposed to last 3 months is nearly gone. We weren't directly affected by the flood but my customers certainly were.

July 19-21st - Market Collective weekend, lots of lookers, no buyers. My booth costs me $260, I only have $180 in sales, not the usual turnout by a long-shot. Three days sitting at the MC have been a pleasant break, but its a loss weekend. Still no luck looking for a place to live.

July 29th - I get to see my old optometrist, Dr. Torano, the best in town. She gives me a new prescription, I can read. My old prescription is workable (for the first time in 5 years) but funds are dwindling, sales are still down 90%. I can ship out all the current Indigogo perks or get new glasses. I ship out the perks. I also find a place to move in to, the catch is it has to be August 15th. I give notice to my old landlord and bring up the laundry list about about the outstanding issues, she owes me money for no washing machine for 10 months and a five month period when the water heater was leaking. Ever got a $200 water bill? I have, it sucks, especially when you get it after 2 weeks of no hot water because your landlord is a cheapskate.

August 3rd - My family emigrated to Canada from the UK 40 years ago today, they are spread about now, don't see them much, good in a couple of cases, bad in others. My son is close, that is what I care about. He and I take our other business, the toy-shop, to the Calgary Horror-Con, his wonderful girlfriend helps us out again. We make enough to cover the damage deposit for the new place.

August 5th - Time to start packing up the studio for the move, I push out a couple of special order mugs as I'm packing. One for my friend Jeff's 50th birthday, he is as a brother to me, he and his wife are family. The second for my friend Brian out east who wanted a special mug  for the creator of Hellboy, Mike Mignola. He only asked for it a few years back but between my bad eyes and the nervousness of making something for a public figure that I am a huge fan of I was a little hesitant to make it.

August 6th - Although we don't actually take possession of the new place until the 15th they are letting me move stuff in now. A household, ceramic studio and a toy-shop, we have a lot to do. The new place was occupied by smokers for the last 25 years, they have been renovating for a while, my new next door neighbor is doing the renovation. Aarron is an awesome contractor if anyone needs one. Re-painting with smell blocking paint after scrubbing the walls, pulling out the carpet and a new hardwood floor. I drop off rent cheques at my new landlords house, meet his wife and talk about family, he gives me a bottle of wine he made. After six years I've never met my old landlord, don't know where she lives, I only deal with the property manager.

August 7th - Packing and moving continue, my old landlord serves me with papers claiming I didn't pay rent rather than deal with my request (spoilers - I paid the rent, she is just a bad keeper of records).

August 8-9th - Packing, moving, ad infinitum.

August 10th - My friends birthday, I take the afternoon/evening off, first break since the surgery. Old friends, new friends, a good time is had, he loves his mug.

August 11-14th - Packing, moving, ad infinitum.

August 15th - We take possession of the new place and spend the day moving the bedrooms and the kitchen and bathroom basics over. Sales are still down, despite that I have a restful sleep, the first in months. (foreshadowing)

August 16th - Packing, moving, ad infinitum.

August 17th - Packing, moving, ad infinitum, with friends and a U-Haul. U-Haul sucks by the way. but at the end of the day most of the furniture is moved and most everything else is packed, except the rest of the studio. There is beer, advil and pizza. I love my friends.

August 18-21st - Packing, moving, ad infinitum.

August 22nd - Court day #1 - giving evidence against a dangerous driver who nearly drove through my bedroom last Xmas. Apparently he paid the fine, they told the police officers and lawyers, no one told me. Afternoon wasted and $20 for parking downtown. At least I got to hang with a friend for a little bit after. Later I borrow my new neighbors ladder to check out the attic at my old place, there was a leak from the roof in the living-room and I want to see the actual damage before court tomorrow. I make a much more disturbing discovery, the chimney has become disconnected in the attic and fumes from the furnace have been venting into the house for the last 10 months at least. No wonder I have been sleeping better, no carbon monoxide fumes in the new place.

Disconnected Chimney
stack started leaning over a year ago

August 23rd - Court day #2 - proving I paid my rent and being informed by the judge that if I have issues with the landlord I have to take her to court. Yay! More court. *ugh*

August 24-25th - Packing, moving, ad infinitum.

August 26th - Brian gives Mike the mug, he likes it. He posts pics of it on his FB page. I am freaking out, in a good way. lol

August 27th - Packing, moving, ad infinitum.

August 28-29th - Going back and forth between the old and new places looking for all the evidence against my old landlord, most of which is packed in boxes. Which box? Yeah, its like that.

August 30th - Court documents filed. Packing, moving, ad infinitum.

August 31st - Packing, moving, cleaning. This time with friends again, love my friends. last of the studio, kilns, clay, etc.

September 1st - Two loads left and a little cleaning to do . . . the right front wheel assembly gives way on my truck when my son goes to pick up dinner. *sigh* I call the property manager and get a 24hr extension on the move-out.  We get a van from my son's girlfriend's mom to finish the move.

September 2nd - Move complete. Physical collapse.

September 3rd - Comatose for a bit. Unpacking begins, I find my cereal bowl, I can eat breakfast, no one has to die. More coma.

September 4th - Move out inspection on the old place complete, book is closed, except for the upcoming court date. Start updating the blog. Looking at the studio to start unpacking, lots of work to do, Indiegogo perks to finish. Sales are still down.

My new studio is in there somewhere, Michaelangelo time!!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Help an Artist (Me) Keep His Vision

Project: Indiegogo #TrespassersEye- Steampunk and Cthulhu Madness
Mood: A little more hopeful than usual
Media: Looper (again) :-)

I've been talking about my Indiegogo Project for a while now and I have finally been able to make it live. Frankly it took so long because of the reason I've started it, my wretched eye. I've recently come to the disturbing realization that I am not really using my left eye anymore. The vision has deteriorated so badly that apparently my body is acting like its no longer there. I don't look forward anymore, my head is constantly canted to the left. That has also led to neck aches and very stabby headaches in my right eye (the "good" one) because of its over use. *sigh* Time to get this surgery done. Anyway, on to the Project.

I've created some new sprig designs and some limited edition numbered pieces that can be purchased through the Indiegogo Project. The cost prices are the regular gallery rates, but rather than the usual 50% going to the gallery, its staying with me and going to my eye surgery.

Perk #1 - Andrew's White Chocolate Caramel Corn Recipe
What!! Just a caramel corn recipe you say, well. Has anyone ever threatened you if you didn't make a snack for them? Tried to bribe you for a recipe? Well here it is finally and you don't have to wait for me to make it for you or try to bully me for the recipe. (These will be mailed)
Cost - $5.00

Perk #2 - One-eyed Demon Bead
For the past 20 years I have made a special demon/gargoyle decoration that I have only used for myself and my son. You could only get this bead if you were a close friend, but I have made a special edition one-eyed demon for this fundraiser. Available in red, white or dark brown clay, 7/8 inch (22 mm) tall. Plus the Caramel Corn recipe too. :-) *This image is of the prototype beads, I was not happy with the detail and I'm re-tooling the mold for greater depth and detail of the final product - picture update soon.
Cost - $10.00
Perk #3 - All-seeing Steampunk Eye Pendant Bead
The All-Seeing Steampunk Eye pendant bead is a brand new design also created just for this fundraiser. Available in red, white or dark brown clay, 1-1/8 inches (29 mm) tall. Plus the Caramel Corn recipe too. :-)
Cost - $20.00

Perk #4 - Cthulhu Pendant Bead
Who doesn't love Cthulhu!?!?!?
A double-sided Cthulhu pendant created just for this fundraiser. Available in red, white or dark brown clay, 3-1/2 inches (88 mm) tall. Plus the Caramel Corn recipe too. :-)
Cost - $40.00

Perk #5 - Cthulhu Bottle Pendant
A double-sided Cthulhu pendant with a twist, its a hollow bottle that you can keep your emergency anti-Cthulhu potions in, or your single-malt. Created just for this fundraiser. Available in red, white or dark brown clay, 3-1/2 inches (88 mm) tall. Plus the Caramel Corn recipe too. :-)
Cost - $60.00

Perk #6 - All-seeing Steampunk Eye Mug
A very limited edition handmade mug. Red clay with black glaze. About 5-1/4 inches (13.5 cm) tall and will hold about 16 fluid ounces (500 ml). Only 25 will be made, each will be numbered. Plus the Caramel Corn recipe too. :-)
Cost - $75.00

Perk #7 - Cthulhu Mug
If you use this mug in a meeting - you win!!!!! A very limited edition handmade mug. Red clay with black glaze. About 5-1/4 inches (13.5 cm) tall and will hold about 16 fluid ounces (500 ml). Only 25 will be made, each will be numbered. Plus the Caramel Corn recipe too. :-)

Cost - $100.00

Perk #8 - Cthulhu Steampunk Cookie Jar
A very limited edition handmade cookie jar, Cthulhu, gears and a metallic glaze. About 12 inches (30 cm) tall Only 10 will be made, each will be numbered. Plus the Caramel Corn recipe too. :-) *This image is of the prototype, the final series will be roughly 2 inches taller in the body. I will update the pic when the first is completed.
Cost - $500.00
So there it is, please drop by the page and take a look. Contribute if you can, otherwise please share on Facebook, Twitter, email, snail mail, rumors, tall stories, haiku . . . you know. :-)